IOWA CITY — Matt Manternach isn’t making any bold predictions.
But he isn’t setting any limits, either.
“I’m confident where I’m at, but there’s good competition there, too,” Manternach said about the Big Ten Track and Field Championships this weekend at the University of Iowa.
A University of Iowa junior from Monticello, Manternach heads into the three-day conference meet with the fastest recorded time in the men’s 800-meters this spring. He clocked a career-best 1 minute, 46.93 seconds while winning the 800 at the Bryan Clay Invitational last month in Azusa, Calif.
That time ranks fifth in the country.
But he’s not taking anything for granted.
“There are four or five guys who all could have a chance to win,” he said.
Manternach hasn’t had the best of luck at his previous Big Ten meets.
He failed to make the finals in the indoor championships in February after running a 1:52.86, two weeks after clocking a 1:49.7 at the Iowa State Classic. He also failed to make the finals at the outdoor championships last spring, running 1:52, more than two seconds slower than a time he ran at the Florida Relays.
At last year’s NCAA outdoor championships, he ran a 1:50.57 in the prelims, two weeks after turning in a 1:48.63 to place sixth at the West Regional.
He has a simple philosophy heading into this weekend’s races.
“Keep feeling good, keep going fast,” said Manternach, who will run in the prelims on Saturday and, if all goes well, the finals on Sunday.
In a race where a mere second can turn a great race into a poor performance — and vice versa — Manternach has made great strides with the Hawkeyes.
He won four state titles as a senior at Monticello, capturing the 800 in 1:52.77 and 1,600 in 4:21.36. He also was a member of the Panthers’ winning 3,200 and 1,600 medley relays.
In his three years at Iowa, his time has dropped nearly six seconds.
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Because he likes to set “fairly lofty goals” each season, he isn’t surprised when he hits them. Breaking 1:47 was his goal this spring.
“I just believe I can get there,” he said. “I’ve believed that for a long time.
“It’s kind of like I expected to be there.”
He credits his teammates — “really good training partners” — and the Iowa coaching staff for helping him improve.
“I just kept working every day, taking little bits and pieces away from it,” he said. “I just kept looking for new ways, areas where I can improve.
“I’ve had plenty of help along the way.”
Manternach doesn’t know what his track future holds and, honestly, doesn’t seem to really care. He is focused on today.
“I’m just trying to take it day-by-day, one step at a time,” he said. “(But) I’m not closing the door on anything.”
The meet starts today at 12:15 p.m. with the heptathlon and decathlon, which wrap up Saturday starting at 10:15 a.m. Sunday’s action — all finals — starts at 12:45 p.m.
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