Track is back: The ISU men focus on speed work going into season opener

Trey Alessio

Track is back, and for the ISU men’s squad, it’s a transition period at practice.

“Practice has been all about making our legs stronger and a little bit about building endurance,” said sophomore Derek Jones. “But it’s mostly been speed stuff. We’re pretty much done with the grueling practices. It’s just more about trusting that we’ve built a good foundation now.”

Jones will be running in the open 400-meter as well as the 4×400 relay. During his freshman stint, he rose to eighth all-time on the ISU 400-meter hurdles list with his third place, 51.02-second finish at the outdoor Big 12 Championship.

Jones hopes to finish right where he left off last year.

“My goal is to just start with a good time from last year,” Jones said. “In the open-4, I’d really like to solidify a good time, not only to stay on those ‘relay legs,’ but to build the confidence up in my mind that progress is inevitable.”

For ISU assistant coach Glenn Smith, this first meet will be a test. He said the sprinters and hurdlers have been getting ready to go and they are looking forward to this first meet.

“We’ve started to narrow into doing a little bit of specific speed-work—just trying to sharpen up a little bit,” Smith said. “It’s kind of a gradual progression to get to the point where they’re doing a lot of maximum-speed work and getting ready to compete. We’ve been preparing the best we can, and the first meet will be the test.”

Last year’s opener was more of a tune-up than a test. Iowa State finished first nine times at the Holiday Classic in 2013, but Smith said that last year was different.

“It was a December meet, and there were a lot of small schools at it,” Smith said. “This one will be a lot more competitive than it was last year… If we got that many wins this year, we would be really happy, but probably a little less likely.”

According to Smith, Kansas and Nebraska will be at this year’s Holiday Inn Invitational along with some other junior colleges.

The Cyclones are returning three NCAA qualifiers including All-American Edward Kemboi in the 800-meter, second team All-American Cam Ostrowski in the high jump and Jan Jeuschede in the shot put. They all hope to make their mark on this weekend’s opener.

“Obviously, you want to start off strong; you want to get off on the right foot,” redshirt senior Ostrowski said. “I think those meets are a good test to see where everyone’s at, and you can build off of that from there.”

Ostrowski will not be making the trip to Lincoln, Nebraska because he is fighting an ankle injury, during which will be making plans to come back from for the January 24 meet.

“We’re just trying to see where they’re at, and I hope it’s at the level that I think it is and if not, we’ll know where to go from there,” Smith said. “I feel pretty good about where we’re at so far.”

Iowa State will head to Lincoln, Nebraska on Jan. 16 for its first indoor meet of the season.