By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Larry Wieczorek has a simple and straightforward message to the casual track and field fan in the days leading up to the fourth annual Larry Wieczorek Invitational.
“Track and field is a great participant sport, but it is also a great spectator sport when it is done right,” Wieczorek said. “This meet is done right. It would be the meet to come and see.”
The fourth annual Larry Wieczorek Invitational takes place Friday and Saturday in the University of Iowa Recreation Building. Field events begin at 1 p.m. (CT) on Friday (weight throw begins at 10 in the Hawkeye Tennis & Recreation Complex) with running events starting at 5:27. Action on Saturday begins at noon (pole vault) and 1:30 p.m. (400-meter dash).
Coach Wiz: ‘This Meet is Done Right’
Wieczorek’s time at the University of Iowa spanned five decades as a student-athlete and coach. He was a six-time Big Ten champion and four-time All-American as a distance runner for the Hawkeyes, then in 30 seasons, he coached 79 individual Big Ten champions and 53 All-Americans.
“You can’t beat progress,” Wieczorek said.
When Wieczorek was a student-athlete at Iowa from 1964-68, he trained and competed in the Field House on a dirt/clay track that circled the basketball court. Now the Hawkeyes train and compete on a multi-million dollar indoor surface that was used for the World Indoor Track and Field Championships in Portland, Oregon, in 2016.
Timing of the event makes the 2020 Larry Wieczorek Invitational more special. With this being an Olympic year (July 24-Aug. 9 in Tokyo), sports like track and field will have its top contenders on display; a large contingent of professional Olympic hopeful will compete this weekend in Iowa City.
“It adds to the excitement of track and field in general,” Wieczorek said. “To have all these potential Olympians here gives fans an opportunity to see not only outstanding teams, but outstanding individuals who will be making their mark on the world later this year.”
Wieczorek didn’t begin running until his sophomore season at Proviso West (Illinois) High School. He won state mile titles in 1963 and 1964 and his time of 4:14.5 as a senior was a state record. Wiecrorek was recruited to Iowa by coach Francis X. Cretzmeyer.
“Never in a million years would you imagine this would happen,” he said of having a meet named in his honor. “I had never been in the state of Iowa, I go out for cross country and track and field (in high school), find out I can run, and I’m recruited by Iowa. I come to Iowa on scholarship and eventually come back and coach. I’m a lucky man.”
|WHAT THEY’RE SAYING ABOUT “THE WIZ”|
“Everybody’s energy is elevated and it is going to be an unbelievable meet. The atmosphere will be terrific and you will see spectacular performances.
“We want our athletes to feel like ‘The Show.’ Some of the best collegiate teams in the country and some of the best professionals in the world are coming to race on our track. We have world champions and Olympic medalists coming, so it is going to be an exciting weekend for track and field in general, to be able to host the best meet in the country.”
Joey Woody, director of track and field, University of Iowa
“I remember coach Wiz so full of energy and he talked so highly of his program and his athletes. He always believed Iowa could be at the top of the charts and we’re still soaring and getting there.
“It’s always special when I get to come home and compete. I had four of my best years here and to continue to bring Iowa prowess to track and field is so much fun. The reception is always great.”
Aaron Mallett, University of Iowa graduate, professional hurdler
“It’s exciting when you can get Baylor, Arizona, Wisconsin, Illinois, Purdue, and Iowa under the same roof and have it be on the Iowa campus. This is an indoor Drake Relays so to speak — it is that type of quality. This indoor track is getting a reputation as being outstanding.
“Coach Wieczorek was born and raised in Illinois, but he is an Iowan through and through. He did so much for this program. He is a great ambassador of our sport.”
Mike Jay, award-winning track and field announcer