Iowa runner takes aim at 800 club


Maybe it’s the fist-bump from his mother before every race. Maybe it’s the pre-meet hip-hop playlist he listens to. Or maybe, as he insists, it’s the grueling, year-round training regimen.

Whatever the case, it has propelled Iowa runner Adam Hairston into the 800-meter finals at the NCAA outdoor championships on June 10 in Fayetteville, Ark.

Hairston nearly fell short of reaching his goal of making it to nationals, and a fall is what got him there. The thin-framed junior vividly recalls how it went down at the Midwest Regional meet in Norman, Okla., on June 1.

“It was pretty tight third through sixth,” Hairston said. “We’re coming down, and I could see the shadows coming up on me. Close to the finish, there was a pack of us all just shoulder to shoulder. I just kind of leaned and dove and prayed a little bit, and it worked out. It was definitely worth it.”

Physically, Hairston came away unharmed. Mentally, he was a different story, as the chaos of the close finish forced him to wait nervously as officials sorted everything out.

It made hearing the announcement of his new personal-best time of 1:48:87 even sweeter. Runners three through six had been separated by 0.16 seconds, and by placing fifth, Hairston’s time, the 23rd best in the nation, earned him an automatic bid to Fayetteville.

Hairston’s running style is a testament to how badly he wants to win.

“Pretty much every race I run, I’m running right in the front,” he said. “I’m not going to sit in the back and wait around. I always put myself in a position where I can win it. I’m really competitive.”

Competitiveness is a must-have quality for any champion, and he certainly has it. He credits his teammates for developing that streak.

“We have a great group of 800-meter runners to train with, so every day in practice, we’re pushing each other doing some really good workouts,” Hairston said. “Also being competitive and just mentally knowing that I can run with anybody in the nation is a large factor to my success.”

The Cedar Rapids native didn’t seriously consider Iowa until late in the recruiting process.

“I didn’t grow up wanting to be a Hawkeye, but I’m glad I am a Hawkeye now,” he said. “It’s working out well, and I think it will keep on working out well.”

Hairston’s teammates and coaches are glad he made the decision to come to Iowa City because of what he brings to the team.

“I think he’s the toughest guy on the team,” Iowa junior Ray Varner said. “He has so much potential so I’m happy to see him make nationals.”

Assistant coach Joey Woody described the roles of Hairston and Varner, who also qualified for the NCAAs in the 400-meter hurdles, after practice last week.

“They both bring a lot of leadership qualities on the track as far as their attitude and hard work ethic and just the way that they compete on the track, more so than just being outspoken. They’re kind of quiet leaders,” Woody said. “They do a great job of keeping the morale on the team very high.”

Hairston will take a straightforward approach into the national meet.

“If I’m going there I want to do my best, advance as far as I can, make the final and be an All-American,” he said. “I run heats pretty well, so I definitely think that I’m capable of doing that.”

Come Wednesday, Hairston hopes there will be less physical and mental stress than there was in Norman. One thing will surely ease his mind and body: when his mother makes her way to the track, extending a fist for good luck.

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