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Women’s cross-country season full of near misses

BY MICHELE DANNO | NOVEMBER 19, 2009 7:21 AM

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Some may consider the 2009 Iowa women’s cross-country season a rebuilding year because of the loss of 2008 star duo in Racheal Marchand and Sarah Perry.

But at the start of their campaign, the Hawkeye harriers were hopeful and confident they could accomplish great things without the two standout women leading the pack.

So a pack is what the runners formed.

The Hawkeyes made it their goal for 2009 to train and compete as a group in hopes of finishing closer and gaining more points. Instead of having one or two standout runners carry the team, Iowa banded together, working as a unit.

“Last year we definitely had a really defined front runner in Racheal,” senior captain Hannah Roeder said. “But I think this year we had a deeper team.”

This “pack mentality” proved successful in Iowa’s first meet, the Hawkeye Invitational, in which the squad finished with a perfect score of 15 over the Northern Iowa. Four of the first five finishers in the race were Hawkeyes.

Nearly all the uniforms leading the way during the event were black and gold, and the Hawkeyes crossed the finish line together.

But as competition got tougher and meets got larger, Iowa failed to keep its entire team together during races.

The Hawkeyes trained all season aspiring to peak in November for the Big Ten championship, the NCAA Midwest Regional, and, they hoped, a trip back to their fourth-consecutive NCAA championship.

All did not go according to plan, though. Iowa finished a disappointing sixth in the Big Tens, and the women were further disheartened when their season ended with a fifth-place finish in the regional — too low to qualify for the national championship race.

Hoping for their fate to once again be saved by at-large points earned earlier in the season, the Hawkeyes anxiously awaited to hear if they would gain a spot in the NCAAs.

But after tying with Michigan State, Iowa was the first team out of the contest.

“I knew losing Racheal and Sarah was going to make it a challenge,” Roeder said. “But I think it was one we were up to. It just came down to a tiebreaker, and not everything fell into place like we wanted it to.”

Iowa head coach Layne Anderson called 2009 a season of “near misses” for his women and said the Hawkeyes never were exactly where they should have been throughout the year.

His women are not leaving this season discouraged, though.

Four of the top five finishers at the regionals — Amanda Hardesty, Lauren Hardesty, Brooke Eilers, and Betsy Flood — will return next year.

“As much as we wanted to make it to nationals — with this team especially — I feel like we learned a lot this year, and everyone really pulled together,” Lauren Hardesty said. “We’ve formed a lot of great friendships, so in the end I’m grateful. And this will give us a little more fire for next season.”


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