By CHRIS BREWER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — When you spend two years on the sideline rehabbing injuries, you learn how to become a pretty good cheerleader.
That’s what fourth-year junior O’Shea Wilson did in 2015 and 2016, and he’s not going to stop cheering just because he’s back on the track and returning to the top of his game.
Wilson, a native of Houston, Texas, who was named track and field team MVP following his freshman season in 2014, is back in Iowa’s lineup and chasing the form that made him a first-team All-American.
“It feels great to be back,” Wilson said, “but I think I have a couple more meets before I feel like I’m back to the 2014 me. Even though I’m PR’ing and running and jumping well, I still have a lot of room to improve.”
Wilson missed his sophomore season recovering from ankle surgery. His comeback campaign was supposed to be in 2016, but at the first indoor meet of the season in Champaign, Illinois, he tore his hamstring racing the 60 meters.
“I was down for the rest of the year,” Wilson said. “Since then I’ve been strictly rehabbing and trying to strengthen my ankle and make sure nothing else on my body gets hurt.”
The stay-healthy plan includes preventative care and getting lean.
“I’m trying to get below 190. It isn’t easy, but I’m going to try it,” Wilson said. “I am eating healthier because I have (UI head) coach (Joey) Woody and the strength and conditioning staff looking out for me in the weight room. I’m also getting warmed up in the training room and being careful how much I do each week. It has all been helping.”
The Hawkeyes have made a conscience effort to work Wilson back into his full lineup of events. He didn’t compete in more than two events in the same outdoor meet until the Hawkeyes competed in Tucson, Arizona, the first weekend of April. There he ran the 100, 200, and 400-meter relay. His 10.35 mark in the 100 is a personal best and ranks seventh all-time in program history.
One week later in Torrance, California, he made his season debut in the long jump. When the Big Ten Championships begin May 12 at Penn State, he expects to be at full strength.
“We have to get ready for the Big Ten meet because I’m going to doing the long jump, 100, 200, and 4×1,” Wilson said. “We’re trying to prepare for three days of competition.”
The last tune-up prior to the Big Ten Championships is this weekend’s Drake Relays. Wilson ran the second leg of the 400-meter relay Friday to claim the top seed in Saturday’s finals. Weather permitting, he’ll join the long jump competition Saturday at 12 p.m. (CT) and race the relay at 3:18 p.m.
His immediate goal is winning a Drake Relays flag. But long-term, he’s focused on helping his team win a Big Ten team title.
“I want this team to win a Big Ten Championship,” Wilson said. “I could get eighth in the long jump, but if we win the Big Ten team title, I’m fine with that. This can be the year. I love being back. It feels good to be out here with everybody.”