By RYAN CLEVENGER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Opportunity is the word that has been circling the University of Iowa track and field team during these past few months, and much longer before that.
“I tell them every meet is important, every opportunity you step on the track is an opportunity you don’t want to waste.”
That same message of opportunity resonates this weekend when the Hawkeyes host the fifth annual Larry Wieczorek Invitational on Friday and Saturday at the University of Iowa Recreation Building. Field events begin at 1 p.m. (CT) on Friday (weight throw) with running events starting at 5:20 p.m. (600-meter dash). Action on Saturday begins at noon (pole vault) and 1:00 p.m. (400-meter dash). The meet will be streamed on BTN Plus.
The Wieczorek Invitational is entering its fifth year and the growth of the meet throughout that time has been astonishing.
“You look at the first year, and it was just in-state schools,” Woody said. “Since then we’ve had Baylor, Florida State, LSU. We have had some really big track programs.”
“We didn’t know when we were going to be able to compete, but we knew we were going to be able to compete at some point, so you just have to be ready to go.”Joey Woody
However, like many other things in today’s world, this year’s Wieczorek Invite is not like those of years past.
“We’re not able to bring in anyone outside of the Big Ten. But this year is going to be great. We have some big-time teams coming in,” Woody said.
The Hawkeyes host Minnesota, Nebraska, Illinois and Wisconsin this weekend. It marks Iowa’s third meet of a season that has gotten off to a very good start, something Woody credits to consistent training dating back to the summer.
“We didn’t know when we were going to be able to compete, but we knew we were going to be able to compete at some point, so you just have to be ready to go,” Woody said.
In the summer and fall, the goal of competing in 2021 was clear, but the timeline was much grayer. Woody said he was encouraged by the persistence of the team to stay ready for the next opportunity.
“A lot of athletes took it to heart and really took care of business training on their own at home over the summer.”
He also credits consistent work in the fall with providing a strong start to the season.
“We had a chance to continue to train nonstop during the fall. I think a lot of teams had to pull back. We had a one week break but that is really the only time we’ve had to pull back on training.”
Continuous training at a high level has given the Hawkeyes a lot to look forward to in a season unlike any other. But although the season may look different, the final goal remains the same. After this weekend, the team will get ready for what Woody calls “championship season.”
“I think this weekend’s going to be a lot of fun and the energy is going to be really high once the gun goes off. Our kids are excited to be home. In particular, the next weekend is off for most the team, so I think this is a nice last meet for this first part of the indoor season. Then we will have a little break to train and getting ready for the second half.”