Hawkeyes Look To Experienced Veterans in 2008-09

Sept. 24, 2008

Since Head Coach Larry Wieczorek took the helm of the Hawkeye men’s track program in 1997, one of his main goals has been to develop the strong, deep and well-rounded squad that is needed for a top tier finish at the Big Ten and NCAA Championships. After 11 years of numerous individual national and conference honors, Wieczorek is optimistic that the 2008 cross country squad and 2009 track teams can achieve this balance and success.

“As I look up and down our rosters, I am excited for both the cross country and track seasons,” explained Wieczorek, who is in his 22nd season as head cross country coach at Iowa. “While we lost some accomplished leadership to graduation last spring, we have a lot of experience and newcomers with enormous potential. The goal of a well-balanced team is within reach, and if we achieve that we can be one of the best teams in the Big Ten.”

Lost to graduation are distance runners Micah VanDenend, throwers Shane Maier and Ryan Jordan, multi-event competitor Ryan Niver, sprinters Max Milder and Lee Elbert, jumpers Jeremy Petsche and Aaron Reed and pole vaulter Jeff Raymond. The group combined for two Big Ten titles and seven all-region honors, set four school track records and posted several individual performances that rank in the top 10 in school history.

One new component of the 2008-09 squads is the consolidation of the men and women’s coaching staffs in September. Wieczorek will remain the men’s head track and cross country coach, and Layne Anderson will remain the women’s head track and cross country coach, but the teams will share administrative responsibilities, coordinate their competition schedules and divide coaching responsibilities by event instead of gender. Assistant Coach Scott Cappos, who is in his 13th year at Iowa, will coach the throws, while third-year assistant Joey Woody will oversee the men’s sprints, short hurdles and relays, and women’s long sprints and hurdles. First-year assistant Clive Roberts will oversee the women’s short sprints, hurdles and relays, as well and the horizontal jumps for both groups. First-year assistant Christi Smith will direct the multi-events and vertical jumps for the combined program.

While it is always tough to lose senior leadership, Wieczorek is excited about the past accomplishments and the potential for 2008-09.

All-American seniors Eric MacTaggart and John Hickey return, as does 2008 Big Ten outdoor high jump champion Ryan Kelly. MacTaggart, who earned all-America honors in the 10,000 meters in 2006, is a two-time all-region honoree and earned second team all-Big Ten honors in cross country. He sat out the 2007 cross country season in order to fulfill an academic requirement to compete in the Hawkeye Marching Band. Hickey is a two-time Big Ten shot put champion who earned indoor all-America honors last season. He was the first Hawkeye to compete at the NCAA Indoor Championships since 2002.

Senior John Hickey

Seniors A.J. Curtis and Andy Napier, and juniors Adam Hairston, Jesse Luciano and Ray Varner are also expected to provide upper class leadership and experience. Curtis holds the school discus record and has qualified for the NCAA regional meet six times, which is the most of any returning Hawkeye. He is a two-time all-region honoree in the throws. Napier earned all-region and second team all-Big Ten honors in the 3,000-meter steeplechase last season and was Iowa’s second runner to finish the last three cross country races in 2007. Hairston set the school indoor 800-meter mark, earning second team all-Big Ten honors and provisionally qualifying for the NCAA meet in that event. Luciano led the cross country team in five of six races, earning all-region honors. He also led the Hawkeyes in three distance events during the outdoor track season after redshirting indoors. Varner is a two-time all-region honoree in the 400-meter hurdles who was in the hunt for the Big Ten title in that event last season.

Sixteen Hawkeyes redshirted either one or both of the 2008 track seasons and will be eligible for competition for the first time in 2009. The throws and distance events will benefit most. Throwers Matt Banse, Ryan Lamparek and Nick Brayton were three of the best throws prospects to come out of the state of Iowa in 2007, combining for six state titles. Transfer Zachary Schimp will also give the Hawkeyes a strong presence in the throws.

Wieczorek is also excited about newcomers he expects to make immediate impacts in their events. Sprinter Patrick Richards (Colorado Springs, CO), hurdler D’Juan Richardson (Indianapolis, IN), hurdler and jumper Will Cranford (Detroit, MI), middle distance runners Zack Braff (Cedar Rapids, IA) and Erik Sowinski (Waukesha, WI), distance runners Nick Holmes (Bartonville, IL) and Chase Kadlec (Wheaton, IL) and thrower Thomas Reynolds (Coralville, IA) lead the group of newcomers. The group combined for seven individual state titles during their prep careers.

The Hawkeyes are set to host the first two cross country meets of the 2008 season (Aug. 29 and Sept. 12) at Ashton Cross Country Course. The season features trips to Minneapolis and Auburn, with the Big Ten Championships at Michigan, the NCAA Midwest Regional at Oklahoma State and the NCAA Championships at Indiana State. The Iowa track team was scheduled to host the 2009 Big Ten Outdoor Championships at Francis X. Cretzmeyer Track in Iowa City, but the unprecedented summer flooding has forced the Big Ten to move the 2009 meet to Ohio State University. The floodwaters and debris damaged Iowa’s entire outdoor track complex, which will be completely reconstructed and refinished for competition in 2010. Iowa is set to host three indoor meets at the Recreation Building and will travel to Penn State for the Big Ten Championships.

Senior Ryan Kelly

Here is an event-by-event breakdown of the 2008-09 Hawkeyes:

Graduates Elbert and Milder were mainstays in the Hawkeye short sprints and relays the last few years. Junior Paul Chaney, Jr. returns in the short sprints after leading the team in the 60 and 200 meters during the 2008 indoor season. A wide receiver and returner on the Hawkeye football team, he scored points in both events at the Big Ten indoor meet. He did not compete outdoors due to spring football practice, but earned all-region honors his freshman year. Newcomer Richards will also contribute immediately in the 100, 200 and 400 meters. He won the Colorado state 4A 400 meters (47.50) in 2008, placing second in the 100 (10.61) and 200 meters (21.57). He was runner-up at the state 200 (21.55) and 400 meters (48.64) as a junior.

Iowa’s longer sprints and relays will be well-staffed as Varner, junior Zach Splan and sophomores Chris Barton and Steven Willey all return. Varner led the squad in the indoor 400 meters (47.66), placing sixth at the Big Ten Championships. Barton led the team in that event outdoors (47.31), while Splan posted the team’s best 600-meter time (1:20.25).

Wieczorek anticipates 2009 to be a breakout year for the relays as most of the team-leading 1,600-meter relay from last season returns. Newcomers Richards and Richardson will also contribute in the relay events.

Varner will also lead the Hawkeyes in the hurdles. He qualified for the regional meet for the second straight season and picked up his second all-region honor in the 400-meter hurdles. He also placed eighth at the Midwest regional and the Big Ten Championships in that event. Newcomers Richardson and Cranford will compete in the hurdles. Richardson won the 110 (13.96) and 300-meter hurdles (37.18) at the 2008 Indiana state track meet, placing third in both events as a junior (14.41, 38.02).

Senior A.J. Curtis

Middle Distance
Hairston has proved to be a Big Ten contender in the 800 meters. He set the indoor school record (1:49.63) last season and his outdoor best of 1:49.99 ranks fifth in school history. He placed second at the Big Ten indoor meet and third outdoors. Newcomers Braff and Sowinski also bring extensive 800-meter experience to the track, qualifying for their respective state meets three straight years. Braff placed second (1:52.90) as a senior and fourth as a junior (1:55.07), and ran on three of Linn-Mar’s distance medley relays that placed in the top five. Sowinski won the Division I Wisconsin state 800-meter title as a senior (1:54.29) and anchored the state runner-up 3,200-meter relay.

Luciano redshirted the 2008 indoor season, but returned to lead Iowa in the 1,500 (3:51.99) meters outdoors. Sophomore James Paul led Iowa in the mile (4:13.85) last season and returns for 2009.

VanDenend, who became one of Iowa’s top distance runners under Wieczorek, will definitely be missed. Eric MacTaggart’s return, as well that of Luciano and Napier will help soften the blow. MacTaggart earned all-America honors in the 10,000 meters in 2006 and Wieczorek thinks he could make a run at former Hawkeye Stetson Steele’s school record in that event. Luciano also displayed versatility last season, leading the team in the 1,500, 5,000 and 10,000 meters in MacTaggart’s absence. The Hawkeye junior placed fourth in the 10,000 meters at the Big Ten Championships, running that event for the first time in his Hawkeye career. Napier found his niche in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, knocking almost 10 seconds off his previous collegiate best time. He earned second team all-Big Ten honors with his runner-up finish at the conference meet and all-region honors with a seventh-place finish at the NCAA Midwest Regional.

Senior Andy Napier

Wieczorek is expecting a group of returnees to make some serious strides in the distance events this season. Senior Tommy Tate, junior Brendan Camplin, sophomores Bruce MacTaggart and Robert Ingram, Paul and redshirt freshman Mark Battista could make the Hawkeye distance events very strong. Newcomers Holmes and Kadlec will also contribute. Holmes placed fifth in the 3,200-meters (9:13.12) at the 2008 Illinois Class AA state track meet, while Kadlec placed third in the 1,600 meters (4:14.02).

The throws have consistently been Iowa’s strongest events since Wieczorek took over in 1997. Even with the losses of Maier and Jordan, the Hawkeyes are on track to have one of their best seasons yet. Hickey and Curtis return for their final seasons, as does consistent performer Mark Schaapveld. The redshirted quartet of Banse, Brayton, Lamparek and Schimp are eager to make their official Hawkeye debuts and work their way into the Iowa record books. Newcomer Reynolds brings state discus (191-10) and shot put (57-0) titles to the table.

Jumps/Pole Vault/Multi-Events
Sophomore Josh Bean also returns after leading the squad in the indoor triple jump (46-10 1/4) last season. Sophomore Cody Mixon and Cranford will provide depth in the horizontal jumps.

Even with the departure of Petsche, who led the team outdoors and qualified for the NCAA regional meet, the high jump could prove to be one of Iowa’s strongest events. Kelly returns to defend his conference outdoor title, while junior Dan Rolling led the squad indoors (6-11), placing third at the Big Ten meet. Sophomore Graham Valdes gained valuable experience in his first season and junior wide receiver Trey Stross proved his abilities when he was able to work in competition during spring football practice.

Raymond, who led Iowa in the pole vault the last three years, graduated. Juniors Alex Zona and Mark Mankivsky will have to step up as his replacements. Multi-event competitor Frank Prill could also provide depth.

Gone is Niver who set the school heptathlon mark (5,149) and posted a collegiate-best decathlon of 6,837 that was just two points shy of the school record. Prill, Rolling and senior Bobby Windauer all have experience and will look to take the next step. Prill placed 12th in the heptathlon (4,880) and 11th in the decathlon (6,381) at the 2008 Big Ten Championships.

Junior Adam Hairston

Cross Country
The 2008 Hawkeyes want to make their way back to the NCAA Championships as a team and Wieczorek thinks they have the personnel to do it. After five straight years of top-three finishes at the NCAA Midwest Regional, four consecutive top five finishes at the Big Ten Championships and three straight trips to the NCAA meet, the inexperienced 2007 squad ended its season early with a ninth-place finish at the regional meet. With a year under their belts and the return of senior Eric MacTaggart, Wieczorek is convinced the 2008 squad could be a “low numbers” team that records single digit placers and has plenty of depth. MacTaggart and senior Andy Napier will serve as co-captains.

MacTaggart has competed at three NCAA meets and holds the school and Ashton Cross Country Course 6,000-meter record of 18:18. Junior Jesse Luciano earned all-region honors last season with his 15th-place finish and led the Hawkeyes in five of six races. He holds the second-fastest 8,000-meter time (23:59) and the fifth-best 10,000-meter time (30:30) in school history. Napier, who is coming off a successful 2008 track season, was Iowa’s second finisher in the last four races, winning the Hawkeye Open.

Wieczorek will need senior Tommy Tate, juniors Brendan Camplin and Jay Renaud, and sophomores Mark Battista, Sam Bailin, Robert Ingram, Bruce MacTaggart, James Paul and Keith Renaud to post consistent, solid performances that will translate into needed depth. The MacTaggarts and Renauds are the first sets of brothers to compete for the Hawkeyes during the same season since Rickey and Ronnie McCoy in the early 1980’s. Battista and Tate provided solid middle depth last season, while Camplin, Jay Renaud and Ingram also contributed.

Holmes and Kadlec will be expected to contribute immediately. Holmes won the 2007 Class 2A Illinois state cross country title (14:21) for Limestone High School. He also placed fifth in the 3,200 meters (9:13.12) at the 2008 state track meet. Kadlec placed 12th at the 2007 state cross country meet (14:41) for Wheaton North High School. He also placed third in the state track 3,200 meters (4:14.02) as a senior and 14th in the 3,200 meters (9:25.42) as a junior.