Track and field is usually viewed as one of the most individual sports out there. Athletes spend so much time perfecting an individual routine for hours to only exert it for a few seconds or minutes at a time.
Despite this, situations compared to what happened this weekend at the Big 12 Indoor Track and Field Championships show a prime example of when a core of individual attributes come together to achieve one common goal. For the Iowa State men's track team, the culmination of two days' worth of action on the track and in the field paid off, as they took home the team title with a total of 137 points over 19 events. This is the Cyclone men's first team title at the conference meet since 1993, when they also hosted this event.
Roshon Roomes' Double
If there was ever an underdog story in running, it would be senior middle distance runner Roshon Roomes. The Woodbury, Minnesota, native didn't even receive an athletic scholarship from Iowa State out of high school, instead opting to be a part of the running club team for a year before the coaches allowed him to walk on.
Flash forward to now, where Roomes has broken the NCAA record in the 600 yard run and also defended his title in this event while also taking the top spot in the 800m run.
"It just feels so great, knowing how much hard work I have put in over the years to do well," Roomes said.
Besides his natural talent, Roomes' other secret weapon is the ability to seem cool under pressure when he's on the track. Despite running races that would make the average runner keel over from exhaustion at the end, Roomes seems to just glide across the track, quickly moving his way towards the front of a race until he has enough leeway to sprint for home.
"The one thing coach always tells us during practice is to run smooth, so I just tried to follow my training," Roomes said.
In four races over the past two days, Roomes maintained a perfect record by holding off the Big 12's best in both races. That's not to say that the action wasn't competitive, as he battled with teammates Cebastian Gentil and Daniel Nixon in the 600 yards and 800m runs respectively to a sprint finish in the championship races.
"It was super cool to race against my teammates. If it had come down to me and a runner from say, Oklahoma, I maybe would've tried to box him in, but with Daniel and Cebastian, I just had some fun with it," Roomes said.
Roomes' victories added 20 points to the team score.
Kurgat Repeats As 3K, 5K Champion
They say "you can't win all of the time."
Try telling that to senior long-distance runner Edwin Kurgat, who successfully defended his Big 12 Indoor titles in both the 3000m and 5000m runs. On Saturday, Kurgat started off the day with an exciting finish in the 1 mile race, losing out on first place to teammate Festus Lagat in second and Texas Tech junior Takiedinne Hedeilli, who won in a time of 4:13.27.
It was his first loss of the entire year, after he had already set three school records during the track season and completed an undefeated campaign en route to an individual national championship in cross country in the fall.
This did not faze Kurgat however, as he returned to the Harry Hoak Track two hours later for the 3K. The tone of the race was set early, as Kurgat and junior Thomas Pollard immediately strung out the rest of the group, slowly fading away from the chase pack to form a two-man race over the last half of the race. Towards the end however, Kurgat showed his experience and sprinted past Pollard to win his sixth Big 12 championship on the track.
"I am so excited to have accomplished this with my team," Kurgat said. "I knew I wanted to win the 3K, so I just followed my coach's plan and tried to score points for the team."
The 3K race had also proved successful for Pollard, as he had again finished behind Kurgat for second place on the podium, and also contributed to the overall team score with 16 points over the two races. The pair had sealed it for their team, as the Cyclones led by 16 points going into the 4x400m relay as opposed to trailing Texas Tech by 8 points when heading in to the event.
"Our goal was to ensure that our team gets enough points to win it," Kurgat said.
Kurgat's performances did prove key in the Cyclones winning this team championship, as he was given the High Point Performer award for scoring 26 points over his three races, nearly a fifth of Iowa State's total of 137.
Head Coach Martin Smith's View
This team championship for Iowa State is a long-time coming for men's and women's Head Coach Martin Smith, as he joined the program in 2010. The men's team had finished seventh in the Big 12 Championships, and Smith was looking to turn this around after having won the men's team title as head coach of Oklahoma at the Lied Athletic Center.
"This championship is just a culmination of the last five years of work, trying to create a competitive program," Smith said. "This was rebuild was natural."
The part of the team that Coach Smith tried to expand upon was key to this weekend's win- the Cyclones' middle and long distance program. Smith started to rely on these types of athletes to produce results.
"Coach [Jeremy] Sudbury and I sat down about three years ago to try and find a niche that we could excel in, and we looked to the middle distances," Smith said. "Initially, it was a slow build, as we took it one moment at a time. Last year we finished second and knew that we could've done better."
The Iowa State track and field program will wrap up the 2020 indoor season with the NCAA National Championships, which will be held on March 13 and 14 at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The qualifiers for the national meet will be announced on Tuesday.