Feb. 24, 2015
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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. To receive daily news from the Iowa Hawkeyes, sign up HERE.
By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — It seems every time University of Iowa senior Kevin Lewis crosses a finish line this season, he crosses another school record from his to-do list.
At the Iowa State Classic on Feb. 13, Lewis, a native of Ottumwa, Iowa, ran 5,000 meters in 13:43.70 — a Hawkeye record by 13 seconds and the fastest 5K run by a native Iowan as a collegian. As of Feb. 24, it is the top time in the Big Ten Conference.
“My old coach (Larry Wieczorek) would ask, `How can I win this race?,'” Lewis said. “Now I’m at that point where every race I am trying to position myself so I’m there and able to win at the end. That doesn’t mean I’m going to win them all, but I’m in the mix and there is always that chance to win.”
Like most distance runners, the development of Lewis is the result of years of mileage building and staying healthy. He came to the University of Iowa in 2011 after being named the state’s Gatorade Male Track Athlete of the Year. He won an individual state cross country title as a senior and posted state-winning PRs of 4:14.20 in the 1,600-meter and 9:05.25 in the 3,200-meter runs. At the time, Lewis owned the state meet and Drake Relays (9:05.88) high school records in the 3,200.
“Distance running is a sport where work over time can often pay big dividends,” said Layne Anderson, UI distance coach. “Kevin is a clear example of that. He is a young man who arrived with great ambition and lofty expectations and continues to work toward that. This year he is seeing the fruits of his labor.”
Lewis set the table for an outstanding track season during the fall in cross country by placing sixth in the Big Ten Conference Championships on the Bill and Jim Ashton Cross Country Course in Iowa City and earning All-Big Ten honors.
“I had seen times people had put up and I wasn’t quite at that level yet. Now I have beaten just about everybody at some point in some race. It makes me feel pretty good, but now I look at some of the people that I have run faster than and they have Big Ten championships and All-America status. That’s what I’m going for now.”
UI senior distance runner
In the past when Lewis entered a race, he was armed with knowledge of his opponent’s best times. Maybe he felt intimidated or out of their league then, but not anymore. The list of runners Lewis has defeated head-to-head is becoming a Who’s Who of distance running elite.
“I had seen times people had put up and I wasn’t quite at that level yet,” Lewis said. “Now I have beaten just about everybody at some point in some race. It makes me feel pretty good, but now I look at some of the people that I have run faster than and they have Big Ten championships and All-America status. That’s what I’m going for now.”
Lewis, a computer engineering major, logged more than 100 miles per week during cross country. He has trimmed that to between 70-80 a week during indoor season. One of his biggest assets has been resting when it is time to rest. That has allowed Lewis to stay fast and injury-free.
“When it is time to run fast again, I’m ready to go fast,” he said.
After three years in the UI program, Anderson said when the gun goes off, it isn’t a matter of if, but how well, Lewis will run.
“He has demonstrated a reliability that’s necessary at that elite level,” Anderson said. “He is consistent. The guy shows up on workout days and he hits the workouts the way I want them done and he’s making them look pretty easy. Those are good signs.”
Lewis wants to be Big Ten champion, regardless of what event he runs at the indoor championships Feb. 27-28 in Geneva, Ohio. Then he wants a shot at a top eight finish at the NCAA Indoor Championships from March 13-14 in Fayetteville, Arkansas. An Iowa male has never won a conference 3,000 or 5,000 championship.
“It will be challenging but that is what I’m trying to do,” Lewis said.
The last All-America UI male distance runner is Eric MacTaggart in the 10,000 in 2006. Thanks to Lewis, it is once again an electrifying time to follow the Hawkeye distance events.
“It is exciting, especially when it’s a guy like Kevin who has done the work,” Anderson said. “He has not taken any shortcuts. He didn’t arrive with the credentials of some of the better guys in the conference that he is racing with now or beating. When you see that, you’re happy, and you’re happy when it’s a student-athlete you know has done the work, put in the time, and earned the success. That describes Kevin.”