Meyo Mile of Opportunities

Feb. 3, 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 — The Meyo Mile is an elite race, so naturally the University of Iowa track and field program will be represented by a pair of elite student-athletes.

All-Americans Jeff Thode and Betsy Flood are among the competitors slated to run in the nationally-recognized race on the campus of Notre Dame. Flood, a senior from Des Moines, Iowa, will be making her Meyo debut. Thode, a junior from Schaumburg, Ill., will be making his third Meyo appearance. He clocked a 4:10.23 as a freshman in 2010 and ran a 4:03.66 last season. This year, both runners will be faced with an NCAA championship pace.

“It will be a good fast mile,” said track and field head coach Layne Anderson. “I imagine there will be some NCAA qualifiers that come out of this race. There will be some Big Ten schools and some teams across the country that fly in for this meet. There will be some great runners, and we’ll have to run well in whatever heat we’re in.”

To earn an automatic bid to the NCAA indoor championships, women must complete the mile in under 4:37.00. Meeting that standard isn’t the only way to earn an invitation to the Championships, but it does guarantee participation. Flood’s career-best indoor mile is 4:42.70 — set at the 2010 Big Ten Championships — so this week’s race on a 330-meter track against some of the nation’s top runners presents a challenging opportunity, but Anderson says it’s just as important for her to return to the track with a competitive mindset.

“Betsy didn’t have the successful fall season she expected,” said Anderson. “I know there will be some outstanding girls at this meet, and I think she’s excited to get back and race against some good competition and really see where she is. After this weekend, we’ll be able to assess our own expectations for the Iowa State meet, Big Ten Championships and indoor nationals, if that’s a possibility.”

The 2012 indoor nationals are in Boise, Idaho, and Wieczorek believes this weekend presents an opportunity for Thode to earn another berth to the national championships. He qualified in 2011 at the Last Chance Meet with a school record-setting performance of 3:58.72, becoming the first Hawkeye in program history to run a sub-four minute mile. He’ll need another record setting effort to earn an automatic bid this season. The new qualifying standard is 3:57.90.

“Jeff is a sub four-minute miler, and that’s what it’s going to take to get to nationals,” said Larry Wieczork, Iowa’s director of track and field. “We held him out the meet last weekend at Arkansas, which was a very fast mile, because I thought maybe another week of training would help him and this race is set up to break the four-minute mark. Whether someone is ready to step up and do it is another story.”

Thode waited until the final meet of the season before earning the automatic berth last season, but once he earned the invitation to nationals, he cashed in with a sixth place finish to earn All-America honors.

Wieczorek says Thode’s capable of an encore performance, but in the indoor season you get few chances to earn a berth, so you have to seize every opportunity.

“Last year he had to earn the automatic qualifier at the Last Chance Meet or he wasn’t going to go (to nationals),” said Wieczorek. “You only get so many opportunities to qualify, so he’ll use this as one of those opportunities, and we’ll see where he’s at. The good thing about Jeff, he usually competes better than he trains. He’s I guess what you would call a gamer.”

Thode and Flood will test their respective games at Notre Dame’s Loftus Sports Center on Saturday. The men’s Meyo Mile begins at 3 p.m. (CT). The women’s race will start at 3:10 (CT).