24: Napier looks to outrun competition

Oct. 8, 2007

Editor’s note: 24 Hawkeyes to Watch is a feature released Thursday, Aug. 2, highlighting one athlete from each of the 24 intercollegiate sports offered by the University of Iowa. More than 700 talented student-athletes are currently busy preparing for the 2007-08 athletics year at the UI. Hawkeyesports.com will introduce you to 24 Hawkeyes who, for one reason or another, are poised to play a prominent role in the intercollegiate athletics program at the UI in the coming year.

by Sean Neugent

IOWA CITY — University of Iowa cross country standout Andrew Napier — along with head coach Larry Wieczorek — subscribe to a “give it all you’ve got” mentality, which is an admirable trait for a successful runner.

Napier, a redshirt junior from Antioch, Ill., graduated from Antioch High School in 2004 before stepping on the UI campus. During high school, he placed fourth at the state cross country meet as a senior and was a four-time all-conference and two-time academic all-conference performer in cross country and track.

“I thought Andy was a terrific guy with a lot of character,” Wieczorek said. “He looked like a guy with a lot of upside who would have room to grow and improve when he got to college. He is also a good student and he seemed to be everything we look for in a student-athlete.”

“I was really interested in movie-making film and Iowa was one of the few schools in the Midwest that had a major for that,” Napier said. “I took one class and decided that wasn’t what I wanted to do (he is now a history major). Running-wise I wanted a school that was competitive. The Big Ten is one of the toughest conferences in the country in Division I. I came here to see if I could make it at this level.”

Wieczorek has a long, distinguished career at the UI as both a student and coach. He graduated from Iowa in 1969 where he was a six-time Big Ten champion and four-time All-American. Wieczorek once held conference marks in the one, two, three, four and five-mile runs. In 1998 he was inducted into the University of Iowa’s National Varsity Club Athletics Hall of Fame.

Wieczorek inherited the Hawkeye cross country program in 1987. In 2002, he was named as the Midwest Region Coach of the Year by the U.S. Cross Country Association after leading the Hawkeyes to their first NCAA Regional win in school history.

“I think (Napier) is moving in the direction of some of the best athletes I have coached,” Wieczorek said. “He’s been a big scorer on the track and has won cross country meets. He still has two full years yet to go. What he is about is being the best that he can be. I have a saying, `put your best self on the field,’ and right now he is working on being his best self. It is too early to say how he compares to the best athletes — we can decide that in a few years.”

Napier is the captain of the Hawkeyes this season in part because of his drive, attitude, motivation and ability to lead the cross country program. As former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz once said, “Ability is what you are capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.” Napier shows that mentality every time he competes.

“I like going to nationals. I have been fortunate enough to be on a couple of teams that have gone to nationals and that is a real honor and privilege, just running against all of the best teams and runners in the nation.”
Iowa junior Andy Napier

Napier has the will to do the best he can do and his hard work is paying off. This year, Napier ran a collegiate-best indoor mile (4:19.69) at the Iowa Invitational. A few of his other bests are in the two mile (9:11.88 at the Hawkeye Open), 8,000-meters (25:20 at Pre-Nationals) and 10,000-meters (31:25 at the NCAA Championships). Napier runs an average of 75 miles a week or nearly 11 miles a day.

“He is our team captain and had an outstanding track season,” Wieczorek said. “He qualified for the NCAA Regional and had a great spring for us. He’s off to a terrific start and won the Hawkeye Invitational (on Sept. 15 with an 8K time of 25:02.20). I think he has really come into his own as a college athlete in the last few months.”

“I like going to nationals,” Napier said. “I have been fortunate enough to be on a couple of teams that have gone to nationals and that is a real honor and privilege, just running against all of the best teams and runners in the nation.”

The 2007 Hawkeyes are a young team since three contributing athletes graduated last spring. Led by Napier, the youthful Hawkeyes know they need to continue to improve on a weekly basis.

“We’re a much different team than we were last year,” Napier said. “We’re taking it week by week, but ideally we want to keep things going and keep our program at a level where we can go to the national meet every year. Right now we’re just looking to be better than we were the week before with the goal of setting ourselves up to go to regionals and have a chance to make an impact.”

“He is one of the leaders of our team this year and my expectations of him are to keep improving individually,” Wieczorek said. “In cross country, there is the individual component and the team component, so I think he has big things to do in both areas. He is trying to become an outstanding individual and he is also trying to lead our team to being great. Our team this year has a lot of new guys. It’s a young team and we lost three runners from last year. It’s a pretty big challenge to take this team to that category of making them a great team.”

The Hawkeye season is progressing well. Their next meet will be tomorrow (Oct. 12) at the Bradley Classic in Peoria, Ill. Look for the Hawkeyes and Napier to put their best selves on the field every meet and continue to get grow as a team.

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