Women’s track and field team places ninth


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Although the Iowa women’s track and field team has seen significant improvement from the 2009 indoor season, the Hawkeyes discovered their conference competition has improved as well.

Iowa placed ninth at the 2010 indoor Big Ten championships at Penn State over this past weekend — one spot higher than its finish last year.

The coaches and athletes said they went into the meet wanting to improve their reputation by “moving up a few spots” from last place. And with a larger roster and more experienced runners, the Hawkeyes were confident they would finish higher.

But times, jumps, and throws that would have been considered strong in 2009 didn’t even make it to finals at this year’s event.

“We competed much better this year than last year,” Iowa coach Layne Anderson said. “But a lot of the teams had great athletes who did tremendous things as well. We’ve still got a long way to go to be able to compete with the top teams in the conference.”

Still, the Hawkeyes posted several personal records, and six qualified as finalists.

Three women qualified for the mile final — a significant increase from having zero advance last season. Junior Lauren Hardesty and sophomores Betsy Flood and McKenzie Melander competed in the final the second day, placing fourth, fifth, and seventh.

The three tracksters faced slight fatigue in their runs after previously competing in the distance medley relay.

They ran with junior Tiffany Hendricks and finished third with a time of 11:25, provisionally qualifying for the NCAA championships and setting the third-fastest time in school history.

Hardesty said she was excited about her time and finish at the meet, even though her team didn’t finish as high as it hoped. Still, she said, she left the meet feeling optimistic.

“I know ninth isn’t where we want to be,” she said. “But it is a step in the right direction. We can’t really hang our heads at that.”

Senior high jumper Caleigh Bacchus had nothing to hang her head about, either. After a personal best jump of 5-9.25, she said she was “happy” about her fifth-place finish.

Junior Bethany Praska also broke her personal record this weekend — twice.

Praska ran the 600-meter race on Feb. 27 and finished with a time of 1:30 — one second better than her performance at last year’s championship and good enough to qualify for the final. On Sunday, she dropped her time by another second and finished fourth.

Although the junior’s time improved by two seconds since 2009, it still wasn’t good enough to put her in the top three spots for the 600-meter, which disappointed her.

But Praska acknowledged her competition had significantly improved from a year ago, and their times dropped as well. She said the trend seemed to be a reality check for her team.

“All of our hard work isn’t the only hard work being put in by our conference,” Praska said.

“Everyone is stepping up her performance. It’s putting it in perspective that we may be putting in hard work, but we need to take it a step further.”

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