Feb. 20, 2006
Hotel reservations have to be made. Exercise equipment has to be moved. Schedules have to be coordinated for officials and volunteers.
This is the life of Assistant Director of Athletic for event promotions Les Steenlage. Steenlage, along with the rest of the event management staff, is preparing to host the Big Ten men’s track and field indoor championships this weekend.
While there are many details to plan and a lot of work leading up to the event, Steenlage still sees the positives.
“It benefits us. It highlights the University, our facility and our track program. It brings in a lot of fans from outside the community,” said Steenlage.
“With this type of a Big Ten event, the amount of dollars brought into the community is quite high. These championships are good for all concerned in the area.”
Hosting the Indoor Championship poses many challenges, however the event management staff is prepared. Most track and field events at Iowa are one day competitions with 50-60 volunteers. This event spans two days, with almost 200 volunteers, more officials and more pressure on the competitors, said Steenlage. Preparations began a year ago, with meetings occurring every week for the last two months.
With everything that needs to be planned, men’s head track coach Larry Wieczorek is pleased with the support team.
“I am very involved, but at Iowa, we have a tremendous support group, headed up by Paula Jantz and Les Steenlage. They really take the burden Of work off us,” said Wieczorek.
“When you’re on the road, you’ve got everybody together in a controlled environment. When we’re at home like this, all our people are in their apartments or dorms. You get to sleep in your own bed. You have to really work harder to get them focused like they do on the road.”
UI Men’s Track Coach Larry Wieczorek
This allows Wieczorek more time getting his team ready to compete rather than focusing his attention on the details of hosting. It also allows his athletes the benefit of competing for the home crowd.
“We hosted the men’s regional cross country championship this school year, and it really inspired our guys to give their best effort. It’s not quite like basketball where the home court is such an advantage. But, I think they definitely go out there and try harder,” said Wieczorek.
Another advantage for Iowa is that it hosted the Iowa Invitational Feb. 17. While it is different in many ways from the indoor championship, having the meet at home has advantages.
“In some ways, it’s similar. In fact, we’ll use the Iowa Invitational as a dry run and a rehearsal. But the conference meet goes up to such a higher level in terms of the number of athletes and importance of meet,” said Wieczorek.
“It does help having a so-called trial run,” said Steenlage. “The difficulty we have is two fairly large events within a week.”
While competing in front of the home crowd is something the team looks forward to, Wieczorek wants to make sure his team stays focused like they would for an away meet.
“When you’re on the road, you’ve got everybody together in a controlled environment. When we’re at home like this, all our people are in their apartments or dorms. You get to sleep in your own bed. You have to really work harder to get them focused like they do on the road,” said Wieczorek.
With the indoor season winding down, Wieczorek is looking forward to showing a home crowd the improvements made by his team.
“The last couple years, we’ve been in the lower division. I think we’re building a very strong track team, again. We’re really going to have to hit our best performances. My goal is for us to go out there and give our fans a real tough and fighting track team,” said Wieczorek.
The Big Ten Indoor Championships take place Feb. 25-26 in the UI Recreational Building.
written by Jennifer Bissell, Iowa Sports Information