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Women harriers end season at the regionals

BY MICHELE DANNO | NOVEMBER 17, 2009 7:21 AM

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The fate of Iowa’s 2009 women’s cross-country season was decided at 6 p.m. Sunday, when a panel of NCAA judges chose Michigan State over the Hawkeyes.

For the first time in four years, the women’s campaign ended at the Midwest Regional on Nov. 14 in Springfield, Mo., where 30 Midwest teams competed for a chance to run in the NCAA championship meet.

Since 2005, Iowa has qualified through at-large points the Hawkeyes accumulated throughout the season.

But because Iowa’s harriers failed to finish in the top-two in the race, qualifying for NCAAs was once again dependent on at-large points. And this time, the system did not work in the Hawkeyes’ favor.

After tying with Michigan State for at-large points, the Spartans were selected to move on after defeating the Hawkeyes closer to the regional meet. Ultimately, Iowa missed qualifying by one spot.

“This was a season of near misses,” coach Layne Anderson said. “We had plenty of opportunities to improve our position. We had good races but not great racing.”

With a fifth-place finish overall, the Hawkeyes ended a spot lower than last year in the regional meet. They fell to Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa State, and Nebraska, then to Michigan State.

But senior captain Hannah Roeder said she doesn’t think the loss is “an indication of the direction that the program is going.” She said Michigan State qualifying over Iowa was based on a “subjective opinion.”

Despite the disappointment of not qualifying, the women agreed they were not disheartened by their performances during the race. Finishing first for the Hawkeyes was sophomore Brooke Eilers, who has led the “pack” for much of the 2009 season.

Following Eilers, Amanda Hardesty, Roeder, Betsy Flood, Lauren Hardesty, and Lindsay Anderson managed to finish within 11 seconds of each other.

The closeness reflects the Hawkeyes’ aim to run together as a pack throughout the season, hoping to have their top-five finishers gain the most points possible.

“I wouldn’t say anything fell apart in this race, and I wouldn’t change anything we did,” junior Lauren Hardesty said. “It just wasn’t our time to go. Life will go on, and we always have next year.”

One positive did arise from the meet, though. Eilers managed to successfully execute a new strategy of racing she had been practicing. Anderson and Eilers agreed that her old start-off-hard style wasn’t the best way for the sophomore to win races.

To address the issue, Anderson advised Eilers to start races more “conservatively,” pacing herself more throughout the course.

Eilers said she was nervous about trying something different for the first time during an important meet, but it worked out well for her. She finished with a time of 21:14 in the 6-kilometer race and placed 13th overall.

Roeder acknowledged Eilers’ performance and said she was proud of her teammates for “putting it all on the line.”

“There’s just so many variables that go into a cross-country race,” Roeder said. “We’re not at all looking back and saying, ‘We should have done this,’ or ‘We should have done that.’ I feel like we all put forth our best effort.”


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