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Women harriers takes sixth at Wisconsin Invite

BY MICHELE DANNO | OCTOBER 05, 2009 7:20 AM

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The Iowa football team managed to move up a spot in the AP rankings with a victory over Arkansas State over the weekend, and the Iowa women’s cross-country team hopes for the same following its victory over Arkansas on Oct. 3.

Iowa entered the Wisconsin Adidas Invitational in Madison, Wis., looking to gain at-large points toward nationals by defeating teams from other regions. The Hawkeyes finished sixth — one spot ahead of Arkansas, which Iowa head coach Layne Anderson said “could work in [Iowa’s] favor” when it comes time to qualify for the NCAA championships.

“The teams that finished ahead of us were all nationally ranked,” he said. “I think this meet was a good indicator for us that we can beat those teams if we continue to perform. We’ve got a good chance at making nationals.”

The Hawkeyes finished the event with a team score of 157, and their “pack” managed to stay together for most of the race — another one of the team’s goals for the meet. The first seven runners for the Hawkeyes managed to finish within one minute of each other, which junior Amanda Hardesty said was a strong accomplishment.

Sophomore Brooke Eilers finished first for Iowa with a time of 17:31 in the 5-kilometer meet. Behind Eilers came Megan Lessard, Betsy Flood, and sisters Lauren Hardesty and Amanda Hardesty.

Lessard, Flood, and the Hardestys managed to finish the meet within 10 seconds of each other.

“I definitely felt like I had teammates surrounding me,” Amanda Hardesty said. “It kind of keeps you going in those hard times when you’re mentally struggling. It was nice to look over and see my sister and Betsy there beside me.”

Although the Hawkeyes planned on entering 12 runners in the race, only 11 were able to compete because of an injury to freshman Megan Ranegar’s foot. She was still able to attend the meet and see her first competitive collegiate race from the sidelines.

“Watching everyone, it looked like everyone was strong and held together in the pack,” she said. “This race was a good place to start our season.”

But the initial reaction of the harriers was not as positive. Eilers said at first the team was “a little bummed” about placing sixth before later realizing the level of the competition the group was running against.

The Hawkeyes considered the Wisconsin Invitational their opener because it pitted Iowa against a lot of other Division-I teams — four of which are in the Big Ten. It proved to be a substantial shift from the team’s last meet, the Hawkeye Invitational, which the Hawkeyes won, 15-0, over Northern Iowa.

“This was our first big race, so it was kind of hard to get into the racing mindset,” Eilers said. “Once we have a couple more under our belt, we’ll have that racing mentality that we were sort of lacking on [Oct. 3].”

The Hawkeyes have almost two weeks to prepare for their next big meet, the Pre NCAA Invitational on Oct. 17. This meet is crucial for Anderson and his squad, whose ultimate season goal is to make it back to the NCAA championships.

“We’re certainly a team that’s capable of running better in the weeks ahead,” Anderson said. “We’ve got good depth, and we’re healthy, and we have time to improve.”


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