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Women harriers prepare for Regional meet

BY MICHELE DANNO | NOVEMBER 13, 2009 7:20 AM

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The NCAA Midwest Regional meet on Saturday is the Iowa women’s cross-country team’s judgment day.

At the meet last year, the team had a “uniform malfunction” that almost cost them a trip to the 2008 NCAA championship.

Despite having a few of their runners disqualified for non-matching uniforms, the 2008 Hawkeye harriers still managed to qualify. However, this was based on their earned at-large points, which they received for beating non-regional teams throughout the season.

Now, the Hawkeyes are matching and making some changes in hopes of finishing higher than their fourth-place finish last year.

“I’m hoping we can finish higher than fourth so we don’t have to play the waiting game again,” sophomore Betsy Flood said. “I think if we can all run together and run the race we’ve been preparing for, we’ll be better than last year.”

One disadvantage this season’s squad faces is the graduation of their superstar, Racheal Marchand. She finished first overall in the 2008 regional meet.

Hoping to fill her amazingly fast shoes this year are Flood, Brooke Eilers, Amanda Hardesty, Lauren Hardesty, Megan Lessard, Hannah Roeder, and Lindsay Anderson.

In order to directly qualify for nationals and to avoid the “waiting game,” these seven Hawkeyes need to finish in the top two at the regional meet in Springfield, Mo.

But history is not on their side.

Iowa head coach Layne Anderson has led his squad to third- and fourth-place finishes the last couple of years. For 2009, the Hawkeyes are ranked fourth in the Midwest region behind Illinois, Minnesota, and Iowa State.

Being ranked only one spot below the Cyclones adds a competitive edge to an already pressure-filled race. Anderson said his team has beat Iowa State for the past few years, and they “would like to continue doing our part toward helping Iowa win the Cy-Hawk series.”

Aside from the in-state pressure, the Hawkeyes are looking to beat roughly 30 teams from around the Midwest. The women fell to both Illinois, Minnesota, and Iowa State earlier this season, so finishing in the top two will be “challenging.”

“We have the potential to run better than our ranking,” Anderson said. “We just need to challenge some of the teams ranked in front of us. If not, we will certainly keep our fingers crossed for the at-large process to work toward our advantage once again.”

The Hawkeyes have only managed to qualify for the national championship through their at-large points. But this year, members of the team are doing everything possible to qualify directly.

One step Eilers is taking to help her team finish in the top two is changing her approach to this race. Although she has had a couple first-place finishes for the Hawkeyes in 2009, she agreed with her coach that she is still not running to her full potential.

Instead of starting the race with full force, she will attempt to pace herself better and to “go out more conservatively.”

“It is nerve-racking to try a different approach at the end of the season,” she said. “But at the same time, it is kind of exciting to see what the outcome will be.”


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