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Senior Iowa cross-country captain Holmes near full health for Big Tens

BY JALYN SOUCHEK | OCTOBER 23, 2012 6:30 AM

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After the departure of 2011’s top runner Jeff Thode, senior Nick Holmes was looked at to be the new No. 1 guy for the men’s cross-country team. But problems with his health and injuries barred Holmes from competing for much of this season at the high level he is capable of.

The Peoria, Ill., native’s drought ended, though, on Oct. 13 at the Pre-National Invitational. At that meet, Holmes was the top finisher for the Hawkeyes — he came in at 81st overall with a time of 24:18. That meet marked the first top-of-his-team performance for Holmes since the Roy Griak Invitational on Sept. 24, 2011.

The cause of Holmes’ illness at the beginning of this season is still uncertain, and even after several hospital tests, doctors couldn’t figure out what was going on. Holmes said in time, he eventually just started to feel better.

In early season practices, while battling the mystery illness, he found it difficult to simply perform and keep up with the group that he normally led.

“At one of the workouts, I was in the back,” he said. “I couldn’t even keep up with the back group.”

But after his top-place finish for the Black and Gold just over a weekend ago, he was pleased with his performance.

“I thought it was a step forward. I was just happy to be running normal again,” he said. “I think this is where I should be. It’s where I want to be.”

This moment has been a long one coming for Holmes. He missed his entire sophomore season because of injuries, and he dealt with shin problems, stress fractures, a hip problem, and getting shots of cortisone into his knees up until his senior season.

That’s why on the team, Holmes is the example of toughness that other runners look to for inspiration.

“Nick had a really rough career as far as injury,” junior Sam Chaney said. “And if he’s telling me I can get through it, I can.”

Now, a healthy Holmes makes the team that much better.

“I’m not injured for right now, and that’s huge,” he said. “You can’t get better without being healthy, and that’s a big plus; it makes day-to-day routines go by better.”

The turn of events couldn’t have come at a better time for the harrier as the team prepares for the Big Ten cross-country meet, which will take place this week on Oct. 28. Going into the meet, Holmes is confident about his performance and thinks that if he runs at his best, it will set good expectations for the team.

As much as Holmes wants to motivate the team, his squad is motivated to help him.

“We want to make it to nationals and get Nick Holmes that national experience,” freshman Caleb Wilfong told The Daily Iowan near the beginning of the 2012 season.

Holmes said that it’s hard to tell where he is currently, but he feels good in practices and he improves every week. Holmes also noted that he hasn’t set his expectations.

“I don’t necessarily have a certain place; I want to perform to the best of my abilities,” he said. “I could be top-10, top-20. I definitely don’t want to be outside of the top-20.”


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