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Senior captain returns for Iowa track and field team after battling injuries

BY COURTNEY BAUMANN | APRIL 15, 2015 5:00 AM

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After sitting out most of the outdoor season because of hamstring problems, Kaleb VanCleave returned for the Iowa track and field team in a big way.

The senior captain ran a personal best of 47.68 in the 400 meters to take second at the Jim Duncan Invitational on April 11.

“It’s nice that people can actually see me run and see that I actually am a part of the team,” VanCleave said. “It’s awesome to be able to go out there, and PR, and lead by example, even through whatever injury because we have a lot of people that are hurt right now.”

VanCleave’s performance was not only a boost to his confidence, it is a boost in the team’s as well. As a captain, his teammates were excited to see VanCleave run well once again.

“Everybody likes Kaleb, he’s just a good person to be around,” Director of Track and Field Joey Woody said. “People want to see him have success, feel good, and show what he can really do.”

Even though it was his first meet back in more than a month, VanCleave did not allow the nerves or pressure to perform well get to him.

“I just saw him running really relaxed and not putting pressure on himself to run any particular time,” assistant coach Jason Wakenight said. “He just competed, he was just running to win, and instead of focusing on things that are out of his control he just was a competitor, and I think for him it was a really big breakthrough just to feel like he still had that in him.”

In order to continue his improvement, Woody said the most important thing is building his confidence back up with a lot of repetitions in practice since he has not raced much in recent weeks.

Both Woody and Wakenight hope to see the Des Moines native replicate his performance in both the open 400 meter and possibly even a leg of the men’s 1,600-meter relay.

In previous years, VanCleave had been an essential figure in that relay, but since he has been unable to compete thus far in the outdoor season, he needs to work his way back into the rotation.

Woody noted that the relay could be taken to another level competitively if VanCleave could run a 46-second leg in the race.

With VanCleave stepping up, the entire team could benefit from the extra push he could give.

“The more people we have competing for those 4x4 spots, the higher the quality the relay will be,” Wakenight said. “Kaleb stepping up and forcing people to improve isn’t just important to him, it’s important for the entire group.”

Follow @cbomb12 on Twitter for news, updates, and analysis on the Iowa track and field team.


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