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Running past obstacles

BY MICHELE DANNO | AUGUST 25, 2009 7:05 AM

Shin splints, ligament tears, and sore tendons are some common leg issues that plague long-distance runners. But Iowa cross-country runner Hannah Roeder faced a more uncommon issue while training this summer — she was hit by a motorcycle.

Roeder, who is entering her senior season, spent her summer studying and training in the Domincan Republic. During her time there, she said she was challenged by “a series of unfortunate events.”
Besides her run-in with the cyclist, she also contracted a parasite and was bit by bugs that caused severe swelling to her feet.

But Roeder is not new to career-threatening setbacks. After transferring from UCLA to Iowa in the spring of 2008, she was deemed anemic by her doctor, which created a dip in her performance.

“My first season here was track season, and I was running slower than I had been in high school,” Roeder said. “I struggled with my anemia, and I was trying to figure out whether I should still try to compete at this level.”

Her coach also had doubts. Iowa cross-country head coach Layne Anderson said there was a time when he questioned her ability to overcome the challenges of Division-I running.

“Hannah struggled a lot with the process of putting herself together both physically and mentally,” he said. “I think there was a time where we were worried if it would ever happen. I think she hit rock bottom but was able to work her way up throughout the season last fall.”

After a season of persistence, she was able to compete in the 2008 NCAA championships as the third Hawk runner and helped Iowa finished 24th out of 31 teams.

A Des Moines native, Roeder said it felt good to return to her home state after being in California for a year and a half.

“I think Iowa has a great team, and it’s a really supportive environment for developing athletes,” she said. “I think that when I’m wearing my Iowa uniform, as opposed to UCLA, I feel like I’m representing both my state and who I am as a person.”

She also noted the Iowa’s strong physiology program as a another reason for her transfer. A double-major in integrated physiology and international studies, she managed to maintain a 4.0 grade point average while participating in both Division-I cross-country and track.

Her academic success gained her recognition within the conference and around the nation. In the 2009 track season, Roeder received academic All-Big Ten and academic All-American honors.

Senior teammate Fionna Fallon said Roeder’s work ethic makes her a great role model to the rest of the team.

“Transition is not always easy from a different school, but with time she has gotten far through her hard work,” Fallon said. “She really cares about her teammates, and she motivates all of us. It’s a good thing she transferred.”

As a senior, Roeder has the rest of the team looking up to her as a leader. Anderson said she is becoming more and more comfortable with herself and her team every day.

“Hannah is not a real vocal person, and she is not someone who is going to be leading the team vocally,” Anderson said. “But she does everything you would want a person to do in training, and I’m not going to place any barriers or limitations on what she can do this season — that is if she can avoid bugs or being run down by a motorcycle.”


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