By Traci Wagner
In order for any team to be successful, it needs a strong nucleus of successful veterans along with talented newcomers. Head Coach Larry Wieczorek has both and anticipates great things from the 2004-05 University of Iowa men's cross country and track and field squads.
All-American throwers Bill Neumann and Adam Hamilton lead the track honor roll, while the cross country team boasts five all-region selections the past two seasons. Neumann, a fifth-year senior who medically redshirted the 2004 season, is a two-time all-American and Big Ten javelin champion. Hamilton, a junior, earned all-America honors in the hammer throw last season. In cross country, senior Tony Rakaric, juniors Dan Haut and Brian Rae, and sophomore Micah VanDenend were all named to the NCAA all-Midwest Region team in either 2002 or 2003, with junior Matt Esche making the squad both seasons.
"We have some big losses, but we also have an outstanding group of veterans to build around," explained Wieczorek. "One of my goals is to have a comprehensive, well-rounded team. I think were moving closer to that goal."
Not one to use individual injuries as an excuse for past performances, Wieczorek does concede that having a complete and healthy squad will make a tremendous difference in the success of his teams at a conference and national level.
"The key for us is to have athletes on the field and not cheering in the stands," he said. "I think we'll have quality student-athletes in most events with Big Ten scoring potential and the ability to represent us well."
Iowa's key losses are four-time NCAA qualifier Russell Peterson in the hurdles and relays and NCAA qualifier Brad Daufeldt in the throws. The two, along with Neumann, served as tri-captains for the 2004 track season. Also gone from the squad are hurdler Tony Leick, sprinter Warren Holloway, thrower Eric Rothwell and distance runner Stephen Traphagen.
Wieczorek is looking for his large recruiting class to showcase their talents and make an immediate impact in their first year. The newcomers consist of sophomore transfers Jordan Crosby (Fort Dodge, IA) and Jeff Kent (Valparaiso, IN), and freshmen Jake Berns (Monona, IA), Tim Fulton (Decorah, IA), Joe Gajewski (Lombard, IL), Matt Gorman (Gainesville, FL), Kale Katt (Scott City, KS), Steve Ketels (Waterloo, IA), Davis Linden (Grinnell, IA), Eric MacTaggart (Glen Ellyn, IL), Dirk Marple, Jr. (Iowa City, IA), Heath Moenck (Webster City, IA), Andy Napier (Antioch, IL), Jeremy Petsche (Council Bluffs, IA), Jeff Raymond (West Chicago, IL), Aaron Reed (Carpentersville, IL), Mark Schaapveld (Iowa City, IA), Colin Swaney (Iowa City, IA) and Jason Williams (Mt. Vernon, IA).
Here is an event-by-event look at the 2004-05 Hawkeyes:
The Hawkeyes return six seasoned competitors for the full year and one for the indoor season. Seniors Juan Coleman, Robert Beach, Derrick Burks, Omar Isaacs and Ryan Strang, and junior Jason Nolting will compete indoors and outdoors, while senior Zach Digney will run for the Hawkeyes during the indoor season. Burks has led the team in the 60 meters the last two indoor seasons, holding the fourth-best time in school history. Digney has also led the Hawkeyes in the 100 meters and indoor and outdoor 200 meters the last two years. Coleman led the squad in the 400 meters indoors, while Nolting ran Iowa's fastest 400 meters during the outdoor season. Strang, who led the team in the 600 meters and outdoor 400 meters in 2003, returns after being injured most of the 2004 season.
This area is the hardest hit by graduation with the losses of Peterson and Leick. Wieczorek is looking to newcomers Jordan Crosby and Steve Ketels to fill the void. Crosby transferred from Georgia Tech where he led the Yellow Jackets in the 400-meter hurdles last season. He won three state titles at Fort Dodge High School. Ketels won the Class 4A 400-meter hurdles title in 2004.
Seniors Matt O'Hollearn and Josh Tweedy, junior Dan Dziubski and sophomore Rob Long will lead the middle distance pack. O'Hollearn led the Hawkeyes in the 600 meters and yards in last year, and the outdoor 800 meters the last two seasons. These veterans will be aided by newcomers Jake Berns, Tim Fulton, Joe Gajewski, Davis Linden and Colin Swaney. Berns won state titles in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 meters in 2004, becoming the first high school male athlete in Class 2A to accomplish such a feat. He also placed second in the mile at the 2004 Drake Relays. Swaney won the state mile title and ran on City High School's state champion medley relay team. Wieczorek expects middle distance running to be much stronger than in past years.
According to Wieczorek, the distance runners are the most talented group he's coached since arriving at Iowa in 1985. Esche, Rae, Rakaric and VanDenend can run anything from the 1,500 to 10,000 meters. Haut will focus on the 5,000 and 10,000 meters. Esche led the team in five events last season, qualifying for the NCAA Midwest Regional in the 5,000 meters. His collegiate bests in the indoor 3,000 and 5,000 meters and outdoor 5,000 and 10,000 meters rank fourth, second, fourth and seventh, respectively, in school history. Rakaric is ranked sixth in the outdoor 5,000, eighth in the indoor 3,000 and ninth in the 10,000 meters. Rae hold the fifth-best outdoor 5,000-meter time, while Haut is ranked seventh in the outdoor 5,000 and 10th in the 10,000 meters. Junior Adam Roche led the Hawkeyes in the 3,000 meters last season.
Redshirt freshmen Alan Jackson and Jonathan Ruud and newcomers Eric MacTaggart, Jeff Kent, Dirk Marple, Jr., Heath Moenck, Andy Napier and Thom Waters will also get a chance in the distance events. MacTaggart's high school 3,200-meter time was ranked in the top 10 in the nation last spring. Kent competed in all seven cross country meets at Ball State University last season, and earned prep all-America status in the two-mile run at the 2003 Nike Indoor Championships. Napier and Moenck each placed fourth at their respective state cross country meets last year.
Iowa's sprint, hurdle and middle distance corps will all have a part in the relays for 2005. Coleman is a four-time NCAA qualifier as part of the 1,600-meter relay, while Strang ran on two qualifying relays. Digney, Nolting and Coleman ran on the 1,600-meter relay that placed fifth at the Big Ten Indoor Championships, and Digney, Coleman and O'Hollearn ran on the 1,600-meter relay that qualified for the NCAA Midwest Regional Championships. Wieczorek's goal is for the 1,600-meter relay to return to the regional meet and advance to the NCAA Championships. He also anticipates a strong 400-meter relay during the outdoor season. Jumpers and newcomers Aaron Reed and Matt Gorman were mainstays on their high school 400-meter relays and Wieczorek expects their support in that event.
One of the most consistent areas for the Hawkeyes recently. Iowa has produced at least one all-American in each of the last five years in the throws. Neumann and Hamilton will lead the group, along with senior shot putter Ken Kemeny, who has been the only Hawkeye to qualify for the NCAA Indoor Championships the last two seasons. Kemeny also met the "B" standard in the shot put for the 2004 United State Olympic Team Trials.
Daufeldt and Rothwell will be missed, but NCAA Midwest Regional qualifiers Andy Banse, Shane Maier, Tim Brodersen and Chris Voller return and will provide quality depth in all events. In fact, current Hawkeye throwers hold four of the top 10 all-time best performances in the weight and hammer throws, three in the outdoor shot put, two in the indoor shot put and one in the discus and javelin.
Newcomers Kale Katt, Mark Schaapveld and Jason Williams will add depth. Katt was a two-time state shot put and javelin champion, and never placed lower than fourth at the state meet. Williams also won state titles in the shot put and discus as a senior.
For the first time in several years, the Hawkeyes will have competitors in both the horizontal and vertical jumps. Redshirt freshman Ryan Niver will compete in the high jump, as well as the heptathlon and decathlon. Freshman Jeremy Petsche, who placed second at the state meet last season, will also compete in the high jump.
Wieczorek is excited about building a horizontal jumps program around the duo of Matt Gorman and Aaron Reed, and the immediate impact he expects them to have on the team. Gorman's long jump state title and runner-up finishes in the high and triple jumps scored 26 points for his high school team, leading Buchholz to a state title. Reed placed second in the long jump and fourth in the triple jump at the 2004 state meet, setting school records in both events.
The Hawkeyes will also have a competitor in the pole vault with freshman Jeff Raymond. It is difficult for Iowa to field an athlete in this event because it is not offered in high school programs across the state. Wieczorek thinks Raymond will be a solid competitor for the Hawkeyes.
Wieczorek has high expectations for the 2004 cross country squad. He labels this group the most talented from runners one through seven that he's ever started a season with at Iowa. Lofty praise when you consider that he is entering his 18th season at the helm of the Hawkeye harriers. The team will get a chance to showcase its talents at its newly dedicated facility - the Bill and James Ashton Cross Country Course - when the Hawkeyes host the 2004 Big Ten Championships October 31.
The Hawkeyes had a satisfactory year in 2003, placing fifth at the Big Ten Championships and third at the NCAA Midwest Regional. It was not what they had hoped for. The team got a taste of winning the regional meet and competing at the NCAA Championships the previous season and wanted a repeat.
"We had a good 2003 with a lot of highlights, but we didn't defend our regional title or make it back to the NCAA meet," said Wieczorek. "Our main goals are to finish higher at the Big Ten Championships, win back the NCAA Midwest Regional title and make a return trip to the NCAA Championships. Our returning guys are talented and have experience at the highest level, so our expectations are pretty high."
Brian Rae led the Hawkeyes in 2003, placing 13th at the Big Ten Championships and seventh at the NCAA Midwest Regional to earn a berth in the NCAA Championships. Tony Rakaric led the Hawkeyes at the Big Ten meet, placing 11th and sharing all-Big Ten honors with Rae. Matt Esche earned his second all-region team selection with a 10th-place finish at the regional meet. Rakaric, Dan Haut and Micah VanDenend all earned all-region honors in 2002. Junior Adam Roche also returns after being Iowa's fifth competitor at the 2003 Big Ten meet.
Redshirt freshmen Alan Jackson and Jonathan Ruud will get a chance to contribute after sitting out last season, as will sophomore transfer Jeff Kent, who ran at Ball State last year. Newcomers Jake Berns, Eric MacTaggart, Dirk Marple, Jr., Heath Moenck, Andy Napier and Colin Swaney round out the roster. Wieczorek looks for MacTaggart to make an immediate impact coming off an outstanding cross country and track seasons, where he was ranked in the top 15 nationally in the 3,200 meters, as a high school senior.