All the news from Mens and Womens Track.

Shelby Houlihan-SC East-Bowerman track Club
©Michael Scott

Houlihan Advances to 5k Finals in the Olympic Trials

Shelby Houlihan-SC East-ASU ©Sun Devils Athletics

Shelby Houlihan-SC East-ASU
©Sun Devils Athletics

There were definite highs and lows for native Iowans and Iowa connections on Day 7 of the 2016 Olympic Track and Field Trials, being held in Eugene, Oregon.

Feature Photo: Shelby Houlihan-SC East-Bowerman track Club
©Michael Scott

Let’s start this wrap up of Thursday’s competition with the “highs”.

Shelby Houlihan qualified to the Trials in both the 1500 and 5K.  Since qualifying rounds for both events took place on Thursday, the former Sioux East state champion had to make a decision.   Prelims in the 5K were first for her and the NCAA 1500M champ from Arizona State was able to race, somewhat conservatively, and advance to Sunday’s final with the third fastest time of 15:26.91.  Although Houlihan is looked upon as more of an 800/1500 runner, the 5K is also an event she excels at, not just as often.  She ran 15:06.22 at the Millrose Games in February, a time that placed her at #5 5 All Time on the US Indoor list.  Houlihan scratched herself from the 1500M field.

Former Drake University SID, Mike Mahon, is working at the Olympic Trials for USATF and was able to talk to Houlihan after her race for Next Level Iowa.

“It felt really good and easier than I expected,” she said. “It is great to be going to the final and it feels like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders.”

“I hope I feel as good in the finals as I did today and hopefully make the team. I believe I can do it,” she said. “There are no words because I have been wanting to run in the Olympics since I was 5 years old.”

The 5K final will be run Sunday night at 6:28 PM Iowa time.

In the 100M hurdles, Alex Gochenour, Logan Magnolia/Arkansas ran 13.38 and did not advance.  She now turns her attention and energy to her specialty, the Heptathlon which will be contested Saturday and Sunday.

University of Iowa NCAA qualifier, Montayla Holder ran 57.77 in the women’s 400M hurdles, but did not advance.

Drake University assistant track and field coach, LaRon Bennett, ran 51.27 in his heat of the 400M, but the former Georgia All American did not advance.

The rain began to fall, quite heavily during the men’s discus competition and a number of competitors struggled with the wet ring.  One of those having issues with the wet surface was former Newton prep and Kentucky All American, Chase Madison.  Madison had 2 fouls and a throw of 171-6 in the prelims and did not advance to the final.

Iowa State All American shot putter Christina Hillman had some very good throws in the qualifying round, Thursday afternoon.  Her best throw of 17.69M/58’ ½” an outdoor seasons best and her best outdoor throw since 2014, qualified her to Thursday night’s 12 person final.   The rain was falling hard during the shot put final and Hillman struggled with the wet ring conditions.  She had a best throw of 56-4 in the final, and wound up with a still impressive 9th place finish.

In the Women’s 1500M preliminary round, Webster City/Ames native Jenny Simpson cruised on to Friday’s semis with a time of 4:17.31.  The 2011 World Champion is working toward her making her third US Olympic team.

In the Men’s 1500M, UNI MVC champ and All American, Dorian Ulrey advanced to Friday’s semi’s with his time of 3:50.80.   Ulrey was a NCAA champion at Arkansas under former UNI head Coach Chris Bucknam.

Today, Friday July 7, 2016

Men’s 110 high hurdles: University of Iowa B10 champ and All American Aaron Mallett will be in Heat 3, Lane 4.

Women’s 200M prelims: University of Iowa B10 400M champion, Elexis Guster will be in Heat 1, lane 8.  Her teammate Lake Kwaza will be in Heat 2, Lane 8.

Men’s 1500M Semi Finals: Dorian Ulrey will be in heat 2.  Top 12 overall to Sunday’s final.

Women’s 1500M Semi Finals: Jenny Simpson will be heat 1.  Top 12 overall to Sunday’s final.

The Men’s steeplechase final is tonight, with 2 Iowa connections in the field:  Stanley Kebenei was an All American at Iowa Central in Ft. Dodge and at Arkansas.  Hillary Bor earned All American honors at Iowa State.

Olympic Trials schedule and live results, Click Here!  

Television and Live Stream schedule, Click Here!


A.G. Kruger-Sheldon-Morningside
©Jim Kirby

A.G. Kruger, One of Iowa’s Best, Comes Up Short at Trials

A.G. Kruger-Sheldon-Morningside ©Michael Scott

A.G. Kruger-Sheldon-Morningside
©Michael Scott

South Dakota throw coach A.G. Kruger finished fourth in the hammer throw at the United States Olympic Trials at Hayward Field on Wednesday evening.


Courtesy University of S. Dakota Athletics, Britni Waller, USD Sports Information, Click Here!

Kruger sent the hammer 240 feet, 6 inches, on his second throw of the competition. His throw remained in the top three headed into the finals.

Cornell junior Rudy Winkler launched a throw of 251-10 on his fourth attempt to bump Kruger to fourth in the standings.

“I am probably done with my career,” Kruger said after the competition ended. “I thank God for giving me the chance to do this for all of these years. It has been an amazing ride. There are a lot of emotions right now, but at some point it comes to an end.”

Winkler, Kibwe Johnson and Conor McCullough took home the top three spots at the Trials. Johnson threw 246-5 on his third throw and McCullough posted a 243-4 on his first attempt. McCullough’s throw was the best third place mark at the U.S. Olympic Trials since 1992.

Kruger retires as a three-time Olympian, five-time World Championship qualifier and 15-time U.S. National Championship qualifier.

“Hopefully it’s not the end of A.G. Kruger,” Johnson said. “If it was, I would have given him a big old hug. We go back further than most of these guys throwing the hammer. It’s kind of bittersweet the way it ended tonight. I would have liked for him to make the team going out. He definitely put it all into it today. I am sure moving on, hopefully he will reconcile that and he will be at peace with that.”

“A.G. is a fantastic human being and a great coach,” Lance Deal said of Kruger. “It’s always hard for me to see an athlete at this stage of his life because I still remember what it’s like. A great friend and mentor once said to me ‘Athletes and dancers die two deaths.’ Every time I see that I get a little chocked up.”

Deal, the 1996 Olympic silver medalist in the hammer throw and American record holder, designed and built the hammer cage that was used for this year’s Olympic Trials. The hammer throw was contested inside Hayward Field for the first time in history.


More A.G. Kruger quotes…

Sheldon, Iowa native AG Kruger was very emotional in mixed zone area following the men’s hammer throw where he finished fourth. He talked to reporters handling questions with class and dignity
“I’m probably done with my career. Thank God for giving me the chance to do this for all these years. It’s been an amazing ride. There are a lot of emotions right now, but at some point it comes to an end.”
Here is quote from Lance Deal, silver medalist in men’s hammer throw at 1996 Olympics on career of AG Kruger:
“AG is a fantastic human being and a great coach. It’s always hard for me to see an athlete in that stage of his life because I still remember what it’s like. A great friend and mentor of mine said to me once ‘Athletes and dancers die two deaths’. Every time I see that I get a little choked up.”

At 34 years old Kibwe Johnson, was the second oldest competitor in the men’s hammer throw at the U.S. Olympic Trials. Johnson finished second Wednesday in the Olympic Trials finals. He was a teammate of Kruger on several U.S. national teams.

“Hopefully it’s not the end of A.G Kruger. If it was, I would have given him a big old hug. We go back further than most of these guys throwing the hammer. So it’s kind of bittersweet the way it ended tonight. I would have liked for him to have made the team going out. He definitely probably put it all into it today. I’m sure moving on, hopefully he will reconcile that and he will be at peace with that”


Brogan Austin-Boone-Drake 
©Doug Wells

Austin Leads Iowans at the Fifth Season 8K

Brogan Austin-Boone-Drake ©Doug Wells

Brogan Austin-Boone-Drake
©Doug Wells

Iowans come up big at The Fifth Season 8K in Cedar Rapids this past holiday weekend.  Congratulations to Brogan Austin-Boone-Drake who was the overall winner.  Here is the link to the Cedar Rapids Gazette story about the race, Click Here!.

Overall results, Click Here! 

Feature photo: Brogan Austin-Boone-Austin ©Doug Wells

Iowa’s Kruger Eyes 4th USA Olympic Team

A.G. Kruger-Sheldon-Morningside ©Michael Scott

A.G. Kruger-Sheldon-Morningside
©Michael Scott

Three-time Olympian and USD throw coach A.G. Kruger launched the hammer 246 feet at an Olympic Trials qualifying meet held at the Lillibridge Track Complex.

Courtesy U. of S. Dakota Athletics, Click Here! Feature photo: A.G. Kruger ©Michael Scott

The meet, organized by Kruger, was designed to help Olympic hopefuls post qualifying marks ahead of the U.S. Olympic Trials held July 1-10 at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore.

Four of Kruger’s six throws were beyond 240 feet. Kruger was a foot shy of his season best, 247-1, that was set last week in Ashland, Ohio. He currently ranks third in the U.S. behind Kibwe Johnson and Conor McCullough. Kruger holds a personal best of 260-0, or 79.26 meters.

In addition to making three Olympic teams, Kruger has competed on five World Championship teams and qualified for 15 U.S. National Championships.

A native of Sheldon, Iowa, Kruger graduated from Morningside College in 2001.

Omar McLeod- Jamaica
©Jim Kirby

Neither Rain Nor Cold…McLeod Leads World at Drake

Omar McLeod- Jamaica ©Jim Kirby

Omar McLeod- Jamaica
©Jim Kirby

The Drake Relays Road to Rio ended on Saturday in rainy and cold weather.

It was in those conditions that Omar McLeod of Jamaica clocked a World leading 13.08 (-0.1) in the men’s 110m hurdles.

Courtesy Track Alerts, Click Here!

Last weekend, he went sub 10 (9.99) in the 100m and things look good for a sub-13 seconds clocking in Shanghai, the second stop in the IAAF Diamond League on May 14th.

American, David Oliver was second in 13.31 and Jamaican, Hansle Parchment, third in 13.42, while World record holder, Aries Merritt, ended fifth in 13.61.

In a competitive women’s hurdles, 12.56 was the fastest time of the day by World leader American, Kendra Harrison, over compatriots, Kristi Castlin, 12.62 and Brianna Rollins, 12.65, Nia Ali, 12.77 and Jasmin Stowers, 12.81.

Levern Spencer of St. Lucia cleared 1.95m in high jump to beat World Indoor champion Vashti Cunningham, who was fourth, 1.85m.

Kaliese Spencer finished fourth in the women’s 400m hurdles in 56.39 (her slowest time since 2010). Briton Meghan Beesley clocked 55.43 to win the event

drake relays 2014 fri  sp w1500m 0051

Iowa’s Jenny Simpson Headlines Outstanding 1500m Field For Drake

Jenny Simpson-Colorado-Professional Athlete ©Jim Kirby

Jenny Simpson-Colorado-Professional Athlete
©Jim Kirby

The Drake Relays presented by Hy-Vee will feature some of the top American women’s 1,500-meter runners in the Rio Olympic Games Preview field.

©Drake Relays Click Here!

The lineup is highlighted by eight runners who posted times that ranked in the top 20 in the U.S. in 2015 including Olympians Jenny Simpson and Morgan Uceny. Joining those veteran runners are the likes of the former World Junior Champion in the 3,000 meters, Mary Cain, and Brenda Martinez.

Mary Cain ©Jim Kirby

Mary Cain
©Jim Kirby

Both Cain and Martinez make their return to the Blue Oval after Martinez competed in the 800 meters last season while Cain made her Drake Relays debut in 2013. Martinez recently finished fifth in the event at the World Indoor Championships, while fellow Rio Olympic Games Preview competitor Violah Lagat was eighth.

Heather Kampf, a Grand Blue Mile champion, is also in the field that is bolstered by the return of four-time USA Outdoor Champion Treniere Moser.

Also racing for the Drake Relays presented by Hy-Vee prize purse will be Melissa Salerno, Heidi See, Rachel Schneider and Gabrielle Grunewald.

The Drake Relays presented by Hy-Vee Rio Olympic Games Preview is scheduled for Friday, April 29 as part of Hy-Vee Night at the Drake Relays beginning at 7:52 p.m.

Single-session tickets for the 2016 Drake Relays presented by Hy-Vee are now on sale as are all-session and multi-session tickets. To secure your seats at Drake Stadium, visit, or call the Drake Athletic Ticket Office at 515-271-3647.

Erik Sowinski-Iowa
©Michael Scott

Sowinski On Top Of the World

Erik Sowinski-Iowa ©Jim Kirby

Erik Sowinski-Iowa
©Jim Kirby

Former University of Iowa All-American Erik Sowinski earned a bronze medal Saturday night in the 800 meters at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Portland, Oregon.

Courtesy Hawkeye Athletics: Click Here!  Feature photo ©Michael Scott 

Sowinski entered the field with an at-large invitation and finished the 800 meters in 1:47.22 at the Oregon Convention Center, placing third behind Antoine Gakeme (1:46.65) and world champion Boris Berian (1:45.83).

“I was stuck in the back a little bit but Boris got the crowd going so it’s a testament to how he raced and he really set that up to be a heck of a race,” Sowinski said. “I just wanted to keep my nose in there. It was a little pushy throughout the entire thing and I just wanted to stay in contention and be able to make a move with 150 to go. Fortunately I had enough there to hold on for a medal.”

Sowinski competed at Iowa from 2009-12. He was a seven-time All-American and two-time Big Ten champion. He owns or shares seven school records, and was named an Academic All-American in 2012.

He previously represented Team USA at the 2014 World Indoor Championships in Sopot, Poland, and the 2015 World Outdoor Championships in Beijing, China.

“It’s just a testament to hard work,” Sowinski said. “Seeing where Boris came from is inspiring to me. Me coming out of college I didn’t have a sponsorship and was working 40-hours-a-week at a running store and it ended up paying off for me. So being able to see guys like Boris do that will hopefully inspire other guys to do the same thing. You don’t need a five-star lifestyle to be competitive in this sport. Trust in your training and stay positive and anything can happen. Boris is a huge testament to that — props to him today.”

Diane Nukuri-Iowa
©Boston Herald

Adopted Iowan, Diane Nukuri One of England’s Best

Layne Anderson and Diane Nikuri ©Jim Kirby

Layne Anderson and Diane Nikuri
©Jim Kirby

At the 79th Manchester Road Race in New England’s most prestigious Thanksgiving Day race, defending women’s champion Diane Nukuri of Burundi prevailed once again in convincing fashion. Some 12,000 runners competed on a seasonally mild and sunny day.


Nukuri, who finish eighth in last month’s Bank of America Chicago Marathon, may have come into today’s race with more tired legs than her competitors, but with far more experience. Today marked the sixth appearance here for the 30-year-old athlete after first running the race back in 2008. She had finished on the podium three times before, and considers Manchester something of a second home.
“I love it here. I might move here,” quipped Nukuri, who lives in Flagstaff, Az., after the race.
After the flat opening mile, the race moves steeply uphill on Highland Street for more than a mile. Organizers placed a stripe in the road just ahead of the two-mile mark, and the first male and female athletes to hit that mark collect an extra $1000. That’s where Nukuri felt her first big challenge. Former Boise State star Emma Bates spurted ahead of Nukuri and Canadian 10,000m record holder Natasha Wodak to pick up the “Queen of the Hill” prime. Seeds of doubt crept into Nukuri’s mind.
“I don’t know what her name is, the girl who got the uphill challenge,” Nukuri said of Bates. “She was strong, and I felt like the girls who were right behind me were still right there. And you know, when you get on top of the hill together, anything can happen.”
But Nukuri knew the big downhill in the third mile was just ahead after the race turned left onto Porter Street. She hadn’t redlined her heart on the climb, and was ready to take full advantage of the downhill. Experience pays.
“That’s what I did last year, exactly the same strategy,” Nukuri said of attacking on the downhill. “I just tried to finish that last two miles. I was thinking, if I could run 5 minutes (per mile) or under maybe they can match it, but that’s pretty fast.”
They couldn’t. Nukuri came to the uphill finish on Main Street with a comfortable margin on both Wodak and Bates. Nukuri was timed in 24:25, her fastest time ever here in six attempts.
“I love it here,” Nukuri said again. “This is one of my favorite races.”
Wodak clinched second in 24:32 and Bates got third in 24:44. Maddie Van Beek (25:04) and Hannah Davidson (25:08) rounded out the top-5 finishers.

Drake Relays Photographers
©Charlie Neibergall

“Thank You” to the World’s Best Photographers

Me and Earl Hulst

Me and Earl Hulst

I wanted to take a moment to recognize and to express a heartfelt “thank you” to the world’s best photographers who have helped the Next Level Iowa these past years.  They have helped us in our mission of promoting and supporting our great Iowa athletes and coaches excelling in xc, track and field around the globe with their brilliant photos and work.

Cover photo: ©Charlie Neibergall

I am often humbled in the opportunity to associate with them during my favorite events.  They have been a part of my most treasured times.  They have joined me in my favorite places and are some of my best friends.  They are award winning photographers who have taught me many things about photography, and athletics, but even more they have taught me passion in covering the athletes and events we cover.

Thank you for helping us share the stories of the Iowa Athletes and Coaches who make us proud as they take their talents to college and beyond.


©Chris Donahue

©Chris Donahue

©Kirby Clarke Onyepunuka-Olear

©Kirby Clarke Onyepunuka-Olear










©Paul Merca

©Paul Merca

©Luke Lu

©Luke Lu








©Darren Miller

©Darren Miller



©Charlie Neibergall

©Charlie Neibergall








©Dave Peterson

©Dave Peterson

©Doug Wells

©Doug Wells












Ashley Miller-Tipton-Nebraska
©Andrew M Nguyen

Tipton’s Miller Still Setting Records

Ashley Miller-Tipton-Nebraska

Ashley Miller-Tipton-Nebraska

Ashley Miller, a 15-time state track champion from Tipton, Iowa, and an All-American at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, set a record while winning the St. Jude Fayetteville (Arkansas) 10K on Aug. 29. Miller’s time of 37:50.38 topped the field by 2 minutes, 43 seconds and shattered the course record previously held by Arkansas All-American Stephanie Brown, who runs for Nike.

For results Click Here!

The next day Miller won her first aquathlon, the Lake Thunderbird Long Course “One thousand and five” in Norman, Oklahoma. Miller completed the 1,000 yard swim (19:54) and five mile run (31:47) in 52:30.

For results Click Here!

Miller, now living in Oklahoma City and competing for OK Runner, will complete a dietetic internship through the University of Oklahoma on Thursday, Sept. 3.

By Darren Miller