April 22, 2015
Editor’s note: 24 Hawkeyes to Watch is a feature released Monday, Aug. 4, highlighting one athlete from each of the 24 intercollegiate sports offered by the University of Iowa. More than 700 talented student-athletes are currently busy preparing for the 2014-15 athletics year at the UI. Hawkeyesports.com will introduce you to 24 Hawkeyes who, for one reason or another, are poised to play a prominent role in the intercollegiate athletics program at the UI in the coming year.
By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Sam Fourman has spent the past four years at the University of Iowa racing distances from 800 to 8,000 meters. The redshirt junior has competed in big meets and small, in-state and out.
But until March 20, Fourman had never participated outdoors on a collegiate track.
It was something new when Fourman finished 15th in the men’s 1,500-meter run at the Baldy Castillo Invitational in Tempe, Arizona. His time of 3:50.22 put him first among seven Hawkeyes and in the top third of the 48 finishers.
“It is pretty exciting to finally get on that plane and travel with the team,” Fourman said.
Because of an injury-riddled past, Fourman was anxious when he woke the next morning, wondering if his body held up. It did.
Ironically, it was during his final outdoor meet of high school when Fourman caught the eye of former UI head coach Larry Wieczorek at the 2011 Illinois Class 3A State Track & Field Meet. Fourman ran an impressive leg on Oak Park-River Forest’s sixth-place 4×800-meter relay. Wieczorek hit speed dial.
“In high school I was an average runner most of my senior year and at the state meet I ran well and Wiz was the first coach to call me,” Fourman said. “That made an impact. I visited Iowa and loved it. I wanted to go to a Big Ten school. Iowa has a great campus, great atmosphere.”
Fourman, a walk-on, didn’t expect much in return after joining the cross country and track teams at the UI. He had teammates attend Division I institutions, but they didn’t follow through with athletics.
“I wanted to last all four years,” Fourman said. “I wanted to at least compete all four years and try to make the travel squad.”
In 2012 Fourman redshirted. In 2013 he was diagnosed with mononucleosis the day after the Big Ten Indoor Track & Field Championships. In 2014 a stress fracture forced him out of action.
“The past couple years have been frustrating when you watch your teammates perform and they do well and you’re in the training room trying to get healthy,” Fourman said.
UI distance coach Layne Anderson recognized Fourman’s potential in practice. But for four seasons, putting that potential on an outdoor track never happened.
“In high school I was an average runner most of my senior year and at the state meet I ran well and Wiz was the first coach to call me. That made an impact. I visited Iowa and loved it. I wanted to go to a Big Ten school. Iowa has a great campus, great atmosphere.”
UI junior 1,500 runner
“Any time somebody runs well, you notice,” Anderson said. “When they run well and you start learning about their background and realize they haven’t been able to do most of what their competition or teammates are doing, it makes it even more remarkable.”
The most recent ailment holding Fourman back is an aggravated Achilles’ heel. But this time, it isn’t keeping him off the track. Fourman doesn’t run as many miles as his teammates and competitors. He does workouts every Tuesday and Friday with a Sunday long run. He cross-trains two or three times a week and gets one or two workouts in on an anti-gravity treadmill.
For cross-training, Fourman prefers to bike, elliptical, or a pool run.
“If it’s an easy day, I need to keep it easy,” Fourman said. “If it is supposed to be a workout, I try to change the pace, keep the heartrate up, and make it difficult.”
It didn’t take long for Fourman to get the hang of outdoor running and his result in Arizona was not beginner’s luck. In the second race of the outdoor season, Fourman cut four seconds from his 1,500 time, finishing sixth out of 36 at the Florida Relays in Gainesville, Florida, in 3:46.48. He was ninth at the Beach Invitational last weekend in Norwalk, California, with a time of 3:50.04.
“It’s a huge motivator,” Fourman said of his time drop. “Now you go into the next race knowing you’re capable of running a lot faster than you did before. It feels good standing at that starting line; you look at your competition and know you can compete, no matter what. It pushes you to get to the next level.”
What is the next level for Fourman, who is on his maiden journey outdoors? First, is to maintain consistency in training, which can only come with continued good health. Second, is to advance to the NCAA West Preliminary from May 28-30 in Austin, Texas. Third, is to keep the Hawkeyes in the top 25 nationally and among the top five teams at the Big Ten Conference Championships from May 15-17 in East Lansing, Michigan.
“Teamwise we’re looking good,” Fourman said. “I think we can continue to roll with that and perform well at outdoor Big Tens.”
Anderson had his first experience coaching Fourman in cross country last fall, where he posted a season-best 8K time of 25:18 at the Big Ten Championships on the Bill and Jim Ashton Cross Country Course in Iowa City.
“The most important thing is that he got some training, volume, and foundation,” Anderson said. “That is perhaps part of the reason we’re seeing him experience success now. He’s at a level where if he runs that at a Big Ten meet, he will be competitive for a scoring spot and advance to the first round of the NCAAs. The goal is to stay healthy, continue to progress, and see if he can run 3:45 or faster.”
It has been a unique career for Fourman, who has spent the last four years learning more than he wanted about icing and stretching. The quest for low times corresponds with low pain level on his Achilles’ heel.
An economics major, Fourman will graduate this spring, then re-enroll next fall so he can continue in 2015-16 what he started in 2011.
“It will be interesting next year, hopefully I will have another healthy year and compete indoor, outdoor, and cross country,” he said.
Fourman and the Hawkeyes will compete at the 106th Drake Relays from April 23-25 in Des Moines, Iowa. Events that Fourman will run are the University/College Division 4×1,600-meter relay (Thursday, 5:05 p.m.) and either the University Division Distance Medley (Saturday, 12:30 p.m.) or the University/College men’s 1,500 run (Saturday, 2:55 p.m.).