Women harriers head to Minneapolis


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The Hawkeyes are the underdogs in their first big meet of the season this weekend.

The Jack Johnson Classic, beginning today in Minneapolis, pits three-time defending Big Ten champion Minnesota against last-ranked Iowa women’s track and field team.

Four other Division-I schools from various conferences will participate alongside the Hawkeyes and Golden Gophers, making the event the first “big meet” for the Iowa women, because the away competition features all Division-I level teams.

But the Hawkeyes aren’t showing signs of intimidation.

“It’s always a positive thing when we get to compete against the best,” sprints and hurdle coach Clive Roberts said. “I try to put my [women] in these situations as many times as possible. It comes at the perfect time, and we can use this meet to see where we are in terms of preparation.”

The Hawkeyes will bring 29 of their top competitors to Minnesota to run, throw, and jump at the two-day meet, which ends on Saturday. Although competitions will not be scored, Iowa’s athletes are using the meet as an opportunity to “develop and learn how to compete.”

And senior high jumper Caleigh Bacchus has her own goal for the weekend — to clear the NCAA-championship qualifying height of 5-10. Should she accomplish the feat, she will be put on a list of jumpers who can potentially qualify to compete in the national tourney. Roberts and distance coach Layne Anderson both noted Bacchus as an athlete whose performance “stood out” at the Jan. 16 home meet against Western Illinois, Truman State, and Central Methodist from Missouri.

Despite her coaches’ praise, Bacchus said, she wasn’t satisfied with her performance because she only managed to clear 5-8. She did win the event.

“I’m nervous for this week,” the Trinidad and Tobago native said. “But I’m not nervous about the competition. I’m more worried about whether or not I jump the 5-10. I have my own goals in mind.”

Bacchus isn’t the only nervous Hawkeye. Because more than half of the 2010 squad consists of freshmen, the Jack Johnson Classic is many of the women’s first Division-I competition and their first real chance to prove themselves.

Roberts said the only thing he expects of his athletes is that they “leave it all on the track.” He also noted that the greatest improvements happen between the first and second meets of the season.

“We’re a team that’s getting better every day,” he said. “The year before last, we graduated eight All-Americans, so we struggle based on the fact that we lost some very good [women]. We’re a young team, but now a lot of freshmen got that first meet under their belts, so they should be able to take that experience and apply it to this meet.”

Freshman Missy Miller said she is comforted by the fact that her class makes up such a large percentage of the Iowa team; she shares the nerves of her fellow newcomers. She said the upperclassmen are supportive in trying to calm jitters, though.

“I’m going into this meet with no expectations because I’ve never done it before,” the multievent athlete said. “It will be nice to get a mark that I can improve on.”

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