Nov. 18, 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 -- As a sophomore in 2010, University of Iowa cross country runner Jeff Thode became the sixth All-American in school history. On Monday he aims to become the third repeat Hawkeye All-American, joining Kevin Herd (1992-93) and his head coach, Larry Wieczorek (1966-67).
Thode finished eighth in the men's 10 kilometer competition (31:23.67) Nov. 12 at the Midwest Regional in DeKalb, Ill., and advances to nationals as the third overall finisher from a non-qualifying regional team.
"Mentally, I'm not as worried as I was last year," Thode said. "It's just another race now. Last year I was kind of nervous because I wasn't 100 percent sure I could make it to All-America status. Now I'm more confident that I can repeat."
A year ago, Thode was second-team All-Big Ten by placing ninth; he was fifth at the regional meet in Peoria, Ill., and capped the season as the 30th finisher at the NCAA Championships in Terre Haute, Ind. Thode's 10K time was 30:21.4.
A graduate of James B. Conant High School, Thode returned to Schaumburg, Ill., over the summer and assisted his father with home improvement chores. That reduced Thode's offseason mileage total, but it didn't take him long to return to form on the Ashton Cross Country Course. Thode opened the season with an 18-second victory over teammate Kevin Lewis at the Iowa Open on Sept. 2. Still, his season wasn't as busy -- or successful -- as he wanted. Thode didn't compete in the Iowa Invitational on Sept. 16, and he missed the Roy Griak Invitational on Sept. 24 because of a family emergency.
"Mentally, I'm not as worried as I was last year. It's just another race now. Last year I was kind of nervous because I wasn't 100 percent sure I could make it to All-America status. Now I'm more confident that I can repeat."
Junior Jeff Thode
"I did expect to run a few more races, but that happens," Thode said. "I expected to have a pretty good season and for the most part, I did. The only time I was disappointed was at the Big Ten meet."
After running to 17th place at the Chile Pepper Festival on Oct. 15 in Arkansas, Thode came back 15 days later and was 20th at the Big Ten Championships in Aurora, Ill.
"It was a little scary for a while because he was coming on a little slower," Wieczorek said. "His fitness wasn't where it needed to be at the start of the season, but now I believe it is. Until the regional meet, he hadn't raced like we expected. He ran like a champ at regionals, and now I feel he's ready to go."
Thode and Wieczorek leave Iowa City for Indiana tomorrow morning. When the men's race begins Monday at approximately 11 a.m. (CT) on the Gibson Championship Course, Thode intends to get out quickly and stay in the back of the lead pack.
"If the pace of the front pack is too fast, I'll start out with the second pack," Thode said. "I don't have a problem running the race that way; I'm placing myself differently in terms of last year."
He said he wants to stay among the top 30 finishers with a goal of being in the top 25.
"There won't be a lot of distractions," Thode said. "I'll try to focus on the race and the next thing you know, your run is done before you even realize it."
NCAA.com will webcast the 2011 NCAA Championships. Links to the actual webcast will be posted on NCAA.com a few hours before start time.
Joining Herd, Thode and Wieczorek as Hawkeye cross country All-Americans are Ted Wheeler (1952), Deacon Jones (1957) and Stetson Steele (1998).
Thode became the school's first sub-4-minute miler during the 2011 indoor track and field season and he earned All-America honors in the mile by placing sixth at the NCAA Indoor Championships. During outdoor, Thode placed in the 1,500-meter run and the 5K, helping the Hawkeyes win their first Big Ten Conference title since 1967. He went on to qualify for the NCAA West Region Preliminary in the 1,500.