June 1, 2009
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NORMAN, Okla. — With University of Iowa junior Adam Hairston advancing to the NCAA national championships Saturday, track and field can now be added to that proverbial “Game of Inches” list.
Hairston, an 800-meter specialist for the Hawkeyes, was the eighth (and final) qualifier for the finals, where he placed fifth in 1-minute, 48.87-seconds.
“Leaning at the tape,” said UI head men’s coach Larry Wieczorek. “I guess you could say it’s a game of inches. Adam came in here motivated and he needed all that heart and desire to get to nationals. I am really, really proud of him.”
The top five individual performances at the regional meet move on to nationals, which will be held June 10-13 in Fayetteville, Ark. In the finals of the men’s 800, runners 3-6 were separated by 0.16 seconds.
“I could see a guy’s shadow coming up behind me at the end, so I dove for it,” Hairston said. “I figured that if it was going to be that close I was going to dive and pray for the best. If I hurt myself, I would have two weeks to recover and it would be worth it.”
Fortunately for Hairston, he picked himself off the John Jacobs track injury-free. But because of the cluster of competitors at the finish, it took meet officials several moments to declare the placement. It was a time of nervous uncertainty for Hairston, a graduate of Cedar Rapids Kennedy High School.
“I tell athletes that competing well is a good habit and Adam has been competing well throughout his career — particularly in big meets. That has now paid off and enabled him to get to the national meet.”
UI track & field coach
“I knew it was a tight finish and I kept looking toward the scoreboard,” Hairston said. “Then they announced Adam Hairston fifth and I knew I had it. That was an exciting moment.”
The effort places Hairston third all-time on the Hawkeye outdoor 800 performance list behind only Bill Frazier (1:47.64 in 1962) and D’Juan Strozier (1:47.82 in 1990). Hairston now has an opportunity to become just the second UI runner to become an All-American at 800 meters. Ted Wheeler, who coached the Hawkeyes from 1978-99, was an All-American in the 800 in 1952 — a span of 57 years.
“I tell athletes that competing well is a good habit and Adam has been competing well throughout his career — particularly in big meets,” Wieczorek said. “That has now paid off and enabled him to get to the national meet.”
It took a then-personal record of 1:49.15 on Friday for Hairston to qualify for the finals.
“Making it to nationals has been my goal all year long,” Hairston said. “I PR’d (Friday) and I PR’d (Saturday). I’m coming around at the right time. That’s what I’ve been working for. I’ve been training to run into May and June.”
Adam’s father, John, played 70 basketball games at Iowa from 1974-77, scoring 314 points. His uncle, Gordon Beecham, was a track and field athlete for the Hawkeyes from 1983-85, running the opening leg of the school-record 4×100-meter relay set in 1984. Another uncle, Lew Montgomery, married into the family. Montgomery played running back for the Hawkeyes from 1989-92, rushing for 1,093 yards and 17 touchdowns. To top it off, Hairston’s mother and several aunts and uncles also attended college at the UI.