Senior captain Battista embraces new role

Sept. 6, 2010

Hawkeye Invitational photo gallery I | Hawkeye Invitational photo gallery II


IOWA CITY, Iowa — University of Iowa cross country runner Mark Battista has not always been looked up to by his coaches and teammates.

“Not too long ago I was threatened to get kicked off this team,” said Battista, a senior and newly-appointed captain. “But I’ve been working so hard and luckily I got it.”

UI men’s head coach Larry Wieczorek wouldn’t call Battista’s turnaround lucky by any means.

“The way he performed last year on the cross country course and on the track, as well as the leadership he displayed off the field made him a great candidate for that position,” Wieczorek said. “He’s got outstanding leadership.”

Battista earned all-region honors last year, placing 25th at the NCAA regional in the 10,000 meter run, on top of being an NCAA qualifier in the steeplechase.

“I thought he had a real outstanding year last year,” Wieczorek replied. “He really stepped up his athletic performance.”

“The way he performed last year on the cross country course and on the track, as well as the leadership he displayed off the field made him a great candidate for that position. He’s got outstanding leadership.”
UI head coach
Larry Wieczorek

That improved athletic performance Wieczorek spoke of has carried over to this year’s cross country season. Battista finished fourth overall in the 6K Hawkeye Invitational on Friday at Ashton Cross Country Course with a time of 19-minutes, 7-seconds. The only Hawkeye to place ahead of Battista was sophomore Jeff Thode, who finished third.

The Hawkeyes occupied the fifth, sixth and seventh-place spots, which pleased Wieczorek.

“They ran as a pack, which is a good thing. Overall it was very positive,” the head coach stated.

As far as Battista’s performance, Wieczorek was impressed.

“He looked strong,” Wieczorek said. “I think it was a good debut for him for sure.”

The team’s impressive season debut can be credited, in part, to Battista’s increased leadership at practice and running sessions, and his teammate’s willingness to step up and meet the challenges.

“Everyone’s been putting in a lot of work. Everyone’s been stepping up their miles a lot,” Battista said.

Though the hard work being put in will surely strengthen the potential and performance of the Hawkeye runners, both the coaches and student-athletes know that early season events such as the one Friday pale in comparison to what lies further down the road: the meat of a loaded schedule.

“We’ll just continue working through these next weeks and keep getting ready for October and November,” Battista said.

Wieczorek has been around cross country long enough to know that things need to be taken step by step when it comes to building up performance as well.

“This is really a fact-finding mission to see exactly where we’re at,” Wieczorek said. “Each week we want to step up a little bit from here.”

Battista knows he must stay focused and keep his mind sharp because he is aware of the challenges which lie ahead for him and his teammates. He is up to the task of leading his team as captain through the daunting season, saying of his duty, “It’s a true honor for me.”

Iowa’s next event is the 2010 Iowa Invitational on Sept. 18 at Ashton Cross Country Course. The men’s 8K begins at 8 a.m., followed by the women’s 3K at approximately 8:45 a.m.