The Best 10 Minutes in UI Track History (So Far)
March 8, 2011
Editor's Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa's Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- A four-minute mile is the standard for male middle distance runners; a 4:40 mile for females.
Writing an unprecedented chapter in University of Iowa track history, junior McKenzie Melander and sophomore Jeff Thode ran 4:39.78 and 3:58.72 respectively in the mile Saturday, March 5, at the Alex Wilson Invitational on the University of Notre Dame campus in South Bend, Ind.
"For distance running, it was the best 10 minutes in the history of the University of Iowa," said UI head men's coach Larry Wieczorek. "The mile is one of the exciting events in track and field around the world and it certainly was in the world of Iowa track and field this weekend."
Melander's school-record performance was good enough for third place in the race behind Caitlin Lane of Penn State (4:38.37) and Danielle Tauro of Michigan (4:38.77). The mark is 17th best in NCAA Division I this season.
"I was happy that the race went out a little faster than it did at Big Tens," Melander said. "My goal this season was to run low 4:40s, so to get under that exceeded my expectations."
A week earlier in the finals of the mile at the Big Ten Championships, Melander was disappointed with an eighth-place finish in 4:47.99.
The race Saturday was almost an ideal setup for the junior from Apple Valley, Minn., who thrives on a quick pace (67 seconds at 400 meters, 3:29 at 1200) and not being surrounded or suffocated by other competitors. Ten runners started the race, with Melander staying out of traffic in ninth in the early going. She crept up on the outside and settled behind Nicole Edwards, who paced the field all the way through 1,400 meters.
"It's a matter of getting a race that sets up right for me," said Melander, who bettered the old school record of 4:40.19 by Jeanne Kruckeberg in 1989.
"It's historical and it's great for McKenzie," UI head women's coach Layne Anderson said. "She always felt she missed an opportunity to run really fast and it's nice to see her get rewarded. This is a great accomplishment."
To watch Melander's race, click HERE.
The first sub-four-minute mile was run May 6, 1954 by Roger Bannister (3:59.4). In the 57 years since, no Hawkeye student-athlete has cracked four minutes in that event -- until Thode. His school-record placed him second in the race behind Michael Hammond of Virginia Tech (3:58.41).
"It was one of the highlights of my life," Wieczorek said. "Jeff was just amazing. He was gutsy and he knew what he had to do. He needed to run under 3:59 to qualify automatically for the NCAA Championships, which he did. It is one of the highlights of my coaching career for sure."
Thode stayed behind the rabbit and once the designated pace-setter dropped out of the race after 800 meters, Thode opened a 40-meter lead before tightening on the final straightaway and being edged by Hammond. Thode's final time was 3.28 seconds faster than he ran a week earlier in the finals of the Big Ten Championships in Champaign, Ill.
"It's just a milestone in my college career. I knew it would be hard to drop three seconds within a week," Thode said. "I had to make sure I recovered from Big Tens and put it all on the track for (Saturday). That's what I did."
To watch Thode's race, click HERE.
Melander and Thode have plenty of familiar company at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships on March 11-12 at Gilliam Indoor Track Stadium in College Station, Texas. Also qualifying for the Hawkeyes are Bethany Praska and Erik Sowinski in the 800-meter run, Troy Doris in the triple jump, Justin Austin in the 200 dash, Jordan Mullen in the 60 hurdles and the men's 4x400 relay team of Patrick Richards, Ethan Holmes, Sowinski and Steven Willey.
"I'm just going to run and whatever happens, happens," Thode said.