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Last chance for women harriers

BY MICHELE DANNO | MARCH 05, 2010 7:30 AM

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It’s not called the “Last Chance Meet” for nothing.

Despite the informal name the Iowa women’s track and field team has one more chance this weekend to qualify for the NCAA championships — a feat none of them have definitively accomplished yet this season.

Although a few women have provisionally qualified, none have secured spots in the national meet. Ten Hawkeyes with times close to qualifying will venture to Ames — six more than last year.

Iowa coach Clive Roberts said he thinks the increased number of NCAA championship hopefuls is an indication of the program’s improvement.

“This year, we’ve got a better stock of kids, so we’re sending more.” Roberts said. “It just says that we’re heading in the right direction.”

Of the four women Iowa sent last year to the qualifier, two ended made it to nationals — Racheal Marchand and Karessa Farley.

Iowa lost Marchand to graduation, but Farley will return to the meet for the second consecutive year with hopes of repeated success.

Besides Farley, junior Amanda Hardesty will also return to the “Last Chance Meet” for the second year in a row.

After the Big Ten meet on Sunday, Hardesty was disappointed she did not provisionally qualify — an expectation she held for herself.

Meanwhile, her sister, Lauren Hardesty, and sophomore Betsy Flood had low enough mile times at Big Ten meet to exempt themselves from the “Last Chance Meet.”

Lauren Hardesty finished fourth in the Big Ten with a time of 4:41, followed closely by Flood, who finished fifth in 4:42.

But Amanda Hardesty said she needs to drop her mile time by about seven seconds for a chance at qualifying for the NCAA championships. Having set her current personal best, 4:48, at Iowa State earlier this season, she is hoping the venue will help her again.

“It takes a pretty quick time to qualify,” Amanda Hardesty said. “But anything can happen. All it takes is one race, as long as you have the track.”

And the track may be a significant component in Iowa’s success.

Junior Bethany Praska, who will compete in the 800-meter run this weekend, said she also hit her personal best on the Iowa State track this season.

Praska attributed these strong performances to the fact that Iowa State’s track is larger than normal indoor venues. She also said the corner turns are not as “tight”, which she considers an advantage.

Aside from former positive experiences in Ames, Praska said her mindset about the meet is calming her nerves.

“I’m just looking at this meet as an opportunity to go to nationals rather than as a big, looming storm cloud,” Praska said. “I’m really appreciative to go out and get another chance to run.”

Praska’s personal best is only two seconds off the 2:09 she needs to provisionally qualify for nationals, and she is confident she can speed up enough to cut her time down to qualifying.

Roberts said he also has faith that his harriers will be running at the national meet in Ark. On March 12-13.

“I wouldn’t waste my time and go there if I didn’t realistically think they have a chance to make it to nationals,” he said.


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