By JACK ROSSI
IOWA CITY, Iowa — When Iowa lands in Geneva, Ohio, for the Big Ten Indoor Championships this weekend, it will be a culmination of a long journey for first-year throws coach Eric Werskey and a return to the conference he grew up watching.
Werskey grew up in Seymour, Indiana, about an hour drive from the Indiana University’s campus. He was a standout thrower for Seymour High School and committed to Indiana track and field despite numerous football offers.
“Growing up I thought I was going to play football for Indiana,” Werskey said. “I did have a scholarship offer to play football there, but I had a lot of early success with throwing. As the years went on my national ranking went up and when it came time to make a decision, I thought I had a brighter future throwing.”
Werskey’s commitment to Indiana seemed inevitable. The Big Ten, and more specifically, Indiana was entrenched in his family.
“My father was a football player for Lee Corso back in the 70s,” Werskey said. “All I knew was Indiana and the Big Ten.”
After his first year, Werskey transferred to Auburn and joined its world-class throwing program that had garnered multiple All-America honors and national champions.
“From my sophomore year to my fifth year I was at Auburn,” Werksey said. “I joined coach Jerry Clayton, who had the best throws program in the country.”
While at Auburn, Werskey became a three-time All-American, including a third-place finish in the shot put in his final meet at the 2011 NCAA Indoor Championships with a lifetime best 64′ 5.25″ (19.64 meters).
Werskey was a finalist at the 2012 Olympic Trials and his participation allowed him to move to the Olympic Training Center in San Diego where he spent three years before turning his attention to coaching.
“When I graduated I wanted to be a college coach because coach Clayton had a great influence on me,” Werskey said. “He created a tradition and history at a school that had struggled in the past. That is what I want to do at Iowa. I want to create a culture of throwing that becomes a dominant force not only in the Big Ten, but the country.”
Werskey earned his level 1 and level 2 coaching certifications from USA Track & Field. He moved to Chula Vista, California, where he was groomed to coach by his level 2 coach, Art Venegas, and became the full-time throws coach at California State University-Northridge.
“We were able to create a bond and trust that gave me the ability to have confidence in what I was saying and doing,” Werskey said.
Werskey always wanted to return to the Big Ten and his connections to Iowa’s past throwers and coaches is allowing him to build the tradition here.
“I was on a World Junior Team with John Hickey, I followed Jeremy Allen and Gabe Hull, who is an Indiana guy,” Werskey said. “Coach (Andrew) Dubs did a great job laying down a foundation of great throwers.”
When Werskey arrives at the Spire Institute, it will be his first time at the Big Ten Indoor Championships since he was a freshman at Indiana in 2007.
“It will be good to be back,” Werskey said. “I am going to see a former teammate of mine from Auburn, who coaches at Indiana and coach Clayton, who is at Michigan. It will be a little reunion, but we still have a lot of business to attend to.”