Jan. 10, 2012
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa track and field team returns to action Saturday at 2 p.m. inside the UI Rec Building. A total of 13 Hawkeye All-Americans return to launch the 2012 season at the inagural New Year's Classic.
Members of the Iowa track and field team will be available for autographs at 3 p.m. Fans in attendance will also receive FREE Big Ten Network drawstring bags.
Track and Field 2011-2012 Preview
The University of Iowa women's track and field team runs into the 2012 season with a mix of experience and a "great recruiting class," according to head coach Layne Anderson.
"I am certainly very excited about the potential," said Anderson. "The optimism is high. We have great kids back who have proven they can compete at this level. We have some outstanding kids coming in who we think can step right in day one and help reach our team goals."
The distance group looks stronger than ever with seniors Betsy Flood, McKenzie Melander and Brooke Eilers, and newcomer Kayla Beattie. Iowa's field events have the potential to score big points for the team in competition. All-Big Ten junior Majesty Tutson (discus) returns with sophomores Ashlyn Gulvas and Jasmine Simpson (hammer throw), junior Rachel Curry and redshirt freshman Micaela Haight (shot put), and sophomore Carissa Leacock. Newcomer Khanishah Williams (long jump) is also expected to contribute points for the Hawkeyes this season.
Anderson, who is in his ninth year as the head women's cross country coach and fourth as head women's track and field coach, expects the well-rounded blend of talent to impact the entire program. He is especially excited about the throws program.
"We really feel good about the throws program. Especially compared to where we were three years ago when we were literally non-existent," said Anderson. "To be as far as we are now, in the amount of time that it has taken, is a credit to Coach (Scott) Cappos and that hardworking group."
The University of Iowa men's team heads into the track season with a label they have not had since 1967-- reigning conference champions. Big Ten individual champions Justin Austin (sprints), Matt Byers (javelin) and Troy Doris (triple jump) all return for another season. The Hawkeyes also return a host of All-Americans, including Austin, Doris, Ethan Holmes, Patrick Richards, Erik Sowinski, Jeff Thode, Jordan Mullen, and Jeffery Herron. Richards, Holmes, and Sowinski were members of Iowa's 4X400 Big Ten Indoor Championship relay team.
"I am excited about picking up where we left of last year after winning the Big Ten Championships," said head coach Larry Wieczorek. "We've had a really good fall of training. We are excited about the veteran athletes and the newcomers in our program."
Wieczorek, who is in his 25th year as head men's cross country coach and 16th as head men's track and field coach, has set the bar high for the 2011 team, but he is optimistic that they can accomplish each of his goals.
"One goal is to be a better track and field team this year than we were last year and we have reasons to believe that we can do that," said Wieczorek. "Another goal is to have much more of a presence and an impact at the outdoor national championships, because we have the type of team and the type of student-athletes that can make an impact on the national level. I'm excited about the start of a season that we have every reason to be optimistic about."
The women's team will return a strong group of competitors. Those competitors include senior Nicole Erickson and sophomores Erin Jones and Ashley Liverpool. Erickson and Liverpool were both members of the Big Ten Outdoor Championship 1,600-meter relay team, while Jones finished seventh at the Big Ten Indoor Championships in the 200 meters.
Although the men's team lost three sprinters from a year ago -- Steven Willey, Chris Barton and Zeke Sayon -- the team returns a young group of talented competitors, including junior Justin Austin. Austin finished fifth in the 200 meters at the NCAA Indoor Championships to earn All-America honors. All-American junior Jordan Mullen finished ninth in the 60-meter hurdles at the NCAA Indoor Championships. Junior Ethan Holmes earned All-America honors for his efforts on the 1,600-meter relay team at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. He was the only male athlete in the country to advance to the NCAA final site in three different events (110-meter hurdles, 1,600-meter relay, 400-meter hurdles). All-American senior and team captain Erik Sowinski was also part of the 1,600-meter relay team. Sowinski was a four-time NCAA qualifier last season and finished second in the 800 meters at the Big Ten Indoor and Outdoor Championships. D'Juan Richardson returns for his senior season after placing third in the 400-meter hurdles (51.52) at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships.
Senior McKenzie Melander is Iowa's top returner in middle distance events. Melander finished 15th in the mile at the NCAA Indoor Championships and was Iowa's top performer in the 1,500 meters. Sophomore Keelin Gorman will also contribute for the Hawkeyes in middle distance. Gorman recorded collegiate best times in the 800 meters (2:20.13) at the Iowa State Classic and the mile (5:05.18) at the Big Ten Championships.
Iowa's women's distance runners return with a great deal of expectations. Seniors Betsy Flood, Brooke Eilers, and McKenzie Melander all have championship experience. Flood made an appearance at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, placing 15th in the 5,000 meters. Eilers and Melander finished fifth and sixth, respectively, in the 5,000 meters at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships. Danielle Berndt, a top runner in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, also returns for her senior season, while freshman Kayla Beattie, a USA TODAY All-USA high school track and field team selection, and sophomore Lena Placzek are also expected to make an immediate impact.
Thode is Iowa's top returning distance runner. The junior finished seventh in the 5,000 meters at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships. He will be joined by senior Chase Kadlec, juniors Nick Holmes and Nick Young, and freshmen Kevin Lewis, Evan Selsor, and Ben Witt.
The women's throwers and field event competitors head into 2011 with tremendous potential. Juniors Kirsten Weismantle and Katie Truedson lead Iowa in the pole vault, and junior Kelsey Taylor led the Hawkeyes in the weight throw during the 2010 indoor season. Majesty Tutson returns for her junior season. Tutson competed in discuss and finished second with a throw of 172-4 to earn second team All-Big Ten honors at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships last season. Amanda Stahle returns after a successful freshman campaign. Stahle finished eighth in the javelin throw at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships. Carisa Leacock also returns for her sophomore season. Leacock had a successful rookie year in the long jump, finishing eighth at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships. Khanishah Williams joins the team this season from Burlington, Iowa, and is expected to make an immediate impact in the high jump.
The men's team returns a talented group of experienced athletes. Ryan Lamparek led the team in the shot put last year with a season-best throw of 56-4 ½. The senior also placed ninth in shot put at the Big Ten Championships. Senior Nick Brayton placed seventh in discus with a season-best throw of 164-2 at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships. Senior Jeffery Herron, a 2011 NCAA qualifier, led the team in long jump last season. His personal best mark of 24-7 ranks ninth all-time at Iowa. Senior captain Troy Doris earned All-America honors at both the NCAA Indoor and Outdoor Championships. Doris finished sixth (53-5 ½) at the indoor championship, and fifth (52-11 ½) at the outdoor championship. Brandon Oest returns for his junior season. Oest placed eighth in the high jump at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships. Senior Matt Banse led the team in the hammer throw last year with a collegiate-best performance at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships. Banse placed fourth with a throw of 199-11. Freshman Gabe Hull is also expected to score points for the Hawkeyes this season. Hull took the discuss title at the 2011 Pan American Junior Championships, and was named to the USA TODAY All-USA high school track and field team.