Senior Strength

Sept. 20, 2005

IOWA CITY, IA – Third at the Big Ten Championships in 2004. Thirteenth at the NCAA Championships. Four all-region selections. Could the men’s cross country team hope to accomplish more?

“We need to do what we did a year ago plus a little bit more,” said Head Coach Larry Wieczorek, now in his 19th season as head coach.

“We want to be in the top five in the nation,” said senior co-captain Adam Roche.

For most teams, these would sound like lofty goals. But not this team, who has six of its seven runners returning.

“We have a lot of good guys back. They’re one year stronger and one year more motivated. We have a good foundation, all the basics, training, and a great attitude,” said Wieczorek.

It doesn’t hurt to have four fifth-year seniors either.

Roche is coming back from a career year. He placed 14th at the NCAA Midwest Regional meet, which earned him all-region honors. He also placed 69th at the NCAA Championships. But Roche is thinking about more than a strong finish this year.

Senior co-captain Dan Haut

“I don’t think about personal goals; I think about team goals. I want to be a better teammate,” he said.

Co-captain Dan Haut is also focused on improving the team. Last year, Haut led the team at the NCAA Midwest regional, placing 10th. He also placed 39th at the Big Ten Championships and was named to the academic all-Big Ten list. This year, Haut is thinking about helping the freshmen adjust.

“I’m helping to make sure they don’t over work and burn out half-way through the season,” he said.

For Brian Rae, the most important thing is just to compete. “For the cross country team, my goal is to be healthy and a good contributor. I want to go out being healthy and having no regrets.”

Senior Brian Rae

Last year, Rae spent most of the season injured, but in 2003 he placed seventh at the NCAA Midwest Regional and 13th at the Big Ten Championships.

“I want to improve in whatever way is going to best help out the team this year,” said Matt Esche.

Last year, Esche placed 18th at the Big Ten Championships and 62nd at the NCAA meet. He was also the first Hawkeye to cross the finish line in the first four races of the season. But this year, he’s also planning on showing the freshmen the ropes of cross country at Iowa.

“I want to teach them, more or less, what’s going on, the traditions. There are a lot of little things on a cross country team that have to happen and have to keep happening; what routes to run, how to prepare for a big meet.”

And what a group of freshmen for Iowa to have. Already two have show they are ready to help out, and the others are providing reinforcement and support.

Senior Matt Esche

“They provide new, fresh blood into the program. They provide us with new depth and energy,” said Wieczorek.

Other Hawkeye underclassmen are stepping up as well. Sophomore Eric MacTaggart earned the Big Ten Cross Country Runner of the Week honors in the opening week for the season for breaking the six-mile record at Iowa’s Ashton Cross Country Course. In addition to his finish, junior Jeff Kent finished third and freshman Alex Webster finished eighth. It was just the kind of team effort Wieczorek was looking for.

“We try to form a group rather than just an individual,” he said. “We will have a better team and experience if we are all supportive of each other.”

That underclass support could be what the Hawkeyes need to place high at the Midwest Regional Championships this year, which Iowa hosts on November 12. But until then,the Hawkeyes are taking things one day at a time.

“I want to put myself out there every day of practice,” said Esche. “I want to focus on tomorrow.”

By Jennifer Bissell, Iowa Sports Information