Sowinski's journey continues

BY MATT CABEL | JUNE 18, 2013 5:00 AM

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For Erik Sowinski, it’s all about the journey.

The Waukesha, Wis., native didn’t think he would run at the Division I level with two months left in his high-school track career — he was set on running for a Division III school until the Hawkeyes offered him a scholarship.

Olympic dreams didn’t pop into his head until the latter half of his college career, when he began breaking school records and making a name for himself. He ran unattached at the Millrose Games on Feb. 13, where he set a U.S. record in the 600 meters with a time of 1:15.61 after a late dropout from the race granted him a place in the last open lane.

“I had a lot of success in my last couple of years [at Iowa] — I definitely improved a lot,” Sowinski said. “When you have some success like that, and you know that you’ve still got a little bit left in you, it’s hard to turn down the opportunity to keep going after it.”

Now, with a sponsorship from Nike on his belt and his name on the track and field map, Sowinski will run the 800 meters this weekend in the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Des Moines — another steppingstone on his path toward the ultimate stop: the 2016 Olympic Games.

“I’m a guy that never holds limits over my athlete’s heads on what they can achieve,” said Iowa track and field assistant coach Joey Woody, who coaches Sowinski. “I always feel that the sky is the limit; we have to keep training and progressing, setting intermediate goals on the way. Once we accomplish those, we keep setting more goals.”

Sowinski continues to work out with Woody two to three times a week in Iowa City. The workouts consist of speed and endurance training that work around Sowinski’s part-time schedule at Iowa City’s Running Wild store. Certain weeks also call for a day of race-quality repetitions; drills that convey, what Woody described as, “feeling what it’s like to run an 800.”

“He’s competing against the best in the world — he’s gone head to head with them, and he’s not afraid of anybody,” Woody said. “… He’s used to competing against the best. He’s never thought that he couldn’t beat somebody. He’s always known he can beat anybody in the country; now, he’s confident that he can beat anyone in the world.”

Sowinski said a victory in Des Moines would boost his confidence and also reserve his spot in August’s International Association of Athletics Federation World Championships in Moscow.

Woody said he “wouldn’t be surprised” if Sowinski ran his 800 time around the 1:40 mark.

“Mainly, this weekend is to take [a spot in the] top three and earn a chance to go to Moscow,” Sowinski said. “I think doing that at Drake would be pretty exciting for me.”

Former teammate Ethan Holmes said Sowinski has long had the mindset of an Olympic-level competitor, and as an athlete who can compete with some of the best athletes in world.

Perhaps that mindset best explains Sowinski’s journey from a Division III hopeful to now being on the cusp of the world team.

“You can’t just go out and say ‘I’m going to run 1:45 in the 800,’ or ‘I’m going to win this race,’ ” Holmes said. “You have to go out and do it. You have to be willing to train for it … and he goes out and does it.”

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