Brennen Wears admits his track and field club toils in obscurity. This is quite difficult a sport that usually doesn't command the headlines.
Wears a year ago started the student-run Iowa Track and Field Club on the University of Iowa campus in Iowa City. The group is primarily U of I students who are interested in competing after high school, but generally are a step or two below the level of the Hawkeye varsity track and field team. They compete in NCAA and National Intercollegiate Running Club Association (NIRCA) events in both track and cross country.
Call them the farm team of the Hawkeyes.
"Not too many people even know about it," said Wears, a junior in the university's college of engineering.We have about 15 die-hard people who come to practice on a weekly basis."
The coed club has competed in six outdoor meets this spring: at Grand View University, at Augustana (Ill.), at Central College, at Luther College, at Loras College and at the Musco Twilight meet in Iowa City two weeks ago. The group finishes its season today at the Augustana Twilight meet in Rock Island.
A few individuals also competed at indoor meets at Central, Cornell College, Grinnell College, Iowa and Wartburg College.
The group is coached by Curtis Chung, a former all-Big Ten 400-meter runner for Iowa who is a project management director for the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics. Wears, a former East Marshall standout, said Iowa director of track & field Larry Wieczorek gives club members workouts.
"We have had one of our runners practice with the Iowa team over winter break," Wears said. "We have some guys who have the potential to be running for Iowa next year. I sit down with coach Wieczorek from time to time. They're keeping their eye on us."
The Iowa Track and Field Club would never have gotten off the ground without the help of Wears. He filed all of the paperwork to register the club with the university. He had to write a proposal and constitution. A board reviewed his proposal and allowed the club to exist.
Wears said the club receives about $1,000 annually from the university. A local running store, Running Wild, produced the team's uniforms, and Accelerated Rehabilitation Centers has provided trainers and free injury screens for the group.
"They let us throw a spear out on the field. The only thing we don't have is pole vaulting," Wears said. "It's more of a liability issue."
Most of the club members are undergraduate or graduate students. To keep its club status, the ratio of college students to graduates must be at least 51 percent.
Sophomore Jenna Brandhorst has moved up to compete for Iowa. The former club member took 13th in the high jump at the Musco meet with a leap of 5-1. Wears finished 19th in the 800 meters in 1:56.97 while running unattached.
Wears would like to see the club eventually rival the group at Wisconsin, which feeds the varsity track program and is heavily supported by the Badgers.
"A lot of people get scared away," Wears said of potential recruits to the club. "What I'd like to see is more people coming in, see Iowa as a school for academics. Still keep going with their running career. Grow the club to its full potential."