June 6, 2012
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DES MOINES, Iowa — Erik Sowinski’s college running career will end at Drake Stadium this week, but it won’t be Wednesday.
The University of Iowa senior found an extra gear down the home stretch on Drake University’s Jim Duncan Track, split two runners in the final 65 meters, and finished with the fastest 800-meter run qualifying time with a school-record effort of 1:46.09.
Sowinski is one of eight first-team All-American medalists in the 800, and he will compete in the finals Friday at 6:10 p.m. (CT).
“It’s been a hell of a four years and I didn’t want that to be my last race in the black and gold,” said Sowinski, a senior from Waukesha, Wis. “I dug deep and I found it.”
It was a gear that none of the seven other runners in his third preliminary heat could find. With his trademark style, Sowinski took the lead from the gun. A group made its move with about 200 meters to go, but Sowinski said he still felt good and remained patient when he lost the lead. Then, with the finish line in site, Sowinski sprinted between Iowa State’s Edward Kemboi and Minnesota’s Harun Abda on the line between lanes 1 and 2, and in the process he surged ahead of Oregon’s Elijah Greer, who was in far right in lane 2.
“Once Edward made a move, it kind of opened up the inside and I went for it,” Sowinski said of the late charge. “Luckily I was strong enough to finish. I was kind of surprised I was able to stay with some of those guys.”
Kemboi was second in 1:46.20, Greer was third in 1:46.22, and Ricky West of Missouri was fourth in 1:46.41. The top six runners in the heat broke 1:47.
The third and final heat was loaded with talent. Half of the finals qualifiers came from that preliminary, and the times for seven of the eight would have won the second heat (won by Georgia senior Aaron Evans in 1:48.24).
“I wanted to stay patient and I did that,” Sowinski said. “It worked out well.”
Last season Sowinski was a second-team All-American in the 800 by placing 15th (1:47.83). He was fourth at the 2011 NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships in the 800.