April 23, 2016
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — Erik Sowinski has an open invitation to compete at the University of Iowa’s annual Musco Twilight track and field meet, and this year he accepted the offer.
A seven-time Hawkeye All-American from 2009-12, Sowinski competes in the 600 meters Saturday at 5:20 p.m. (CT). It will mark the fifth career Musco Twilight appearance for Sowinski . He won two 800-meter titles as a student-athlete from 2010-12, and returned in 2014 to race on alumni night — but this postgraduate appearance is different from the last.
In 2014, he was celebrated for his school records and All-America accolades. On Saturday, he will be introduced for the first time as a World Championship medalist, having won bronze on March 19, 2016, at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Portland, Oregon.
“I’m excited,” Sowinski said. “Any time you get to compete at home is awesome. It will be this and Drake (Relays) on consecutive weeks and I haven’t run either one in a while. The home crowd always puts a little bit more into it, and I’m excited to hear (PA announcer) Mike Jay and to have some fun.”
Sowinski trains daily at Francis X. Cretzmeyer Track with UI director of track and field Joey Woody, who said Saturday is the next step in Sowinski’s training. He is preparing for his first professional outdoor race of the season next week, when seven of the top 10 American 800-meter runners make two laps around Drake’s blue oval in a Rio Olympic Games preview.
“The Drake field is loaded,” Sowinski said. “It is my first 800 of the year, so I just want to put myself in the mix and get a good season opener and use it as momentum moving forward.”
Before he takes on United States’ Olympic hopefuls, Sowinski must hold off the man that has been chasing his name for two years. UI sophomore Carter Lilly, who ranks second to Sowinski among the school’s all-time top 10 600-meter performers, is also in the 600-meter field.
Sowinski said he sees a bit of Lilly in himself. Neither runners were highly recruited before joining the Hawkeye program, but both continue to outperform expectations. Sowinski raced to his World medal as an at-large qualifier five weeks ago, and Lilly, a freshman walk-on last season, jumped seven spots from No. 9 to No. 2 on Iowa’s all-time top 10 list in the 800 meters last week — in his second race of the season.
“He’s a step ahead of where I was at that point in college,” Sowinski said. “We come from the same roots. He’s also more of a 400 and 800 guy, not completely heralded from high school, but he has stuck his head down and worked hard. To be No. 2 all-time as a sophomore is pretty impressive.”
It’s a matchup featuring the old and new regime, and on UI track and field alumni night it could make for interesting bragging rights — a thought that hasn’t escaped the World bronze medalist.
“I’m excited to race against him and hopefully I’ll be able to hold him off,” Sowinski said. “You can’t count anyone out on any day when you get to this level, so you’ve got to be ready to go at any time and I’m excited to see where I’m at.
“And the alumni night is going to be great. Any time you can compete at home and they put on events like that, you get to see people you haven’t seen in a while, and others you may be meeting for the first time. I’m excited to be around it.”
Musco Twilight XVII begins with field events at 12 p.m., Iowa’s senior class will be recognized at 4 p.m., and running events will follow.