Looking for an Autumn's Edge

Oct. 7, 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.


IOWA CITY, Iowa — Most people get restless and ornery on the last day of work before a two-week vacation. Mitch Wolff got sick in a garbage can.

Wolff, then a junior on the University of Iowa track and field team, wasn’t satisfied with his final performance at the 2015 NCAA Championships. He was experiencing the national stage for the first time, and had planned on sticking around for one more day of work.


“I got a taste of what it was like to get second-team All-America status,” Wolff said, “but at the same time I wasn’t in the final. I wasn’t in the top eight. I was throwing up in a trash can and feeling like crap. I wasn’t satisfied at all.”

Wolff wasn’t ready for vacation. He placed 16th overall in the 400-meter hurdles to earn second-team All-America honors — a no small task for an athlete who had never before qualified for the NCAA preliminary round — but it wasn’t enough. He was determined to reach the finals, which meant he needed to get back to work.

“For any athlete, whether you go to Oregon or not, after the last day of your season you get two weeks of freedom,” Wolff said, “and then after that it is right back to the grind.”

Wolff is the example UI director of track and field Joey Woody points to when emphasizing the so-called “offseason”, or in Woody’s mind, “the most critical period of the year.”

“You have to look at what Mitch did before last season,” Woody said. “He came in very fit from the work he did over the summer. He was lifting last year all summer, followed a great conditioning program and ended up scoring points for us at the conference meet and becoming a second-team All-American.

“That didn’t all just happen from the beginning of the school year. That started after the conference meet the previous year. He was committed from that point forward.”

Woody says this time of the year, for him, is an opportunity to assess commitment and desire. The student-athletes are on their own over the summer and get eight hours a week with the coaches once the first school bell rings.

By the time the full training period begins Oct. 19, it’s clear who took their conditioning seriously and is ready to compete at the highest level.

“What they do during that time sets them up for whether they’ll have a successful season or not,” Woody said. “Because once you’re in season, there is a lot of technical work to do, but it’s a lot of maintenance too. You’re trying to maintain the foundation you built up in the fall.” Sophomore Nicholas Aly heard that message as a freshman last season, but after living it for the first time last season and seeing the results in his teammates, it makes much more sense in Year 2.

“I went home after a week off and got right back into it to make sure I was getting faster and stronger so when I returned to campus I was already ahead of where I was last year,” said Aly. “I want to be where (my teammates) are and show that I’m better than what I’ve shown before.”

The unanimous agreement on the track is this is the time of year to build your base.

“This is when we get strong, build muscle, and realize it’s OK to be sore,” said Wolff. “Then as we progress through the season our intensities will increase and we’ll be ready to rock and roll.”

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