Head Hawkeye has a Taste for Titles

Jan. 24, 2012

Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Larry Wieczorek wants more. Iowa’s director of track and field is in his 25th season as a head coach at the University of Iowa, but he has no need for a silver anniversary watch. Instead, he wants this year’s team to be better than the last — no small feat considering last year’s team won the school’s first Big Ten title since 1967.

“We threw that challenge to our team last year because we believed with the people we have, we can be the best track and field team ever at the University of Iowa,” said Wieczorek. “And I think we can make a good claim to that with the Big Ten title.”

In addition to the men’s 2011 team title, the Hawkeyes crowned six Big Ten champions during the indoor and outdoor championships — including five individuals and one relay. Among those champions, only graduated senior Steven Willey is missing from the 2012 roster.

“We have a lot of fire power on this team, so it’s legitimate for us to challenge our guys this year,” said Wieczorek. “Some years you can’t say that, but coming on the heels of that Big Ten championship and with the personnel we have, it’s a realistic goal to say we want to be a better track and field team than we were last year. The guys are embracing that challenge.”

Erik Sowinski is one of the guns Wieczorek says Iowa relies on to feed its explosive lineup. A 2011 All-American and a member of Iowa’s championship 1,600-meter relay, Sowinski was named a team captain before the 2012 season, and waited all of two weeks before grabbing another top spot in the Iowa record book. He ran the 600 meters in 1:16.91 at the adidas Classic on Sunday, beating the previous school record by more than one second (1:17.94). He also owns the school 800 meter record.

“Eric Sowinski set a tone for us this (past) weekend,” said Wieczorek, “and I told our team afterwards, let’s remember Eric Sowinski’s effort and let that be the spirit of our team. He sets a school record in the 600, broke Steven Willey’s school record, blew it out. That’s pretty impressive. Then he anchors our 4×400 relay to a second place finish, beating Nebraska. He demonstrated a great spirit and fight for our team.”

That spirit is going to need to continue translating into results if Iowa plans to remain on top of a stacked Big Ten. Nebraska was the only team to finish ahead of Iowa at last weekend’s adidas Classic, and the Cornhuskers are one of six conference teams ranked in the national top 25. Ohio State, ranked fourth, is the top rated Big Ten team. The Buckeyes are followed by Nebraska (5), Indiana (8), Wisconsin (13) Minnesota (15) and Iowa (16).

“We went nose to nose with Nebraska, and they’re a national power,” Wieczorek said about the Hawkeyes’ second place finish. “I feel pretty good about our team. This Iowa team can be a better track and field team than we were last year, indoor and out. That’s our goal and that’s kind of our process.

“We’d like to be Big Ten contenders again. What we want to focus on is controlling the controllable and we can become a better track and field team all the way around than we were last year. That’s a realistic goal and if we’re able to do that we’ll be among those top teams competing for a title.”

The early season test continues for the Hawkeyes this weekend when they travel to SEC country to face some of the premier programs in the country in Fayetteville, Ark. Iowa fared well at the Razorback Invite last season — setting five school records — and Wieczorek expects the same effort this time around.

“It just keeps heating up this weekend,” said Wieczorek. “It’s another quick test. We had a great meet last year at Arkansas so hopefully we’ll be ready to go down there and do some good things again. No reason to be intimidated. Not at all.”