Tracksters head west, south in split-squad meet


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Hopefully, the number seven can remain lucky for the Iowa men and women’s track teams in this weekend’s split-squad meets in Palo Alto, Calif., and Fayetteville, Ark.

The men and women will both send seven athletes to the Stanford Invitational — the first outdoor event for the men this season.

“Everyone is pretty excited about the meet, and making the trip out here to California is always fun,” men’s head coach Larry Wieczorek said.

The middle-distance and distance runners will be the featured athletes in Palo Alto, and Wieczorek is hopes the warm conditions will give his squad a good opportunity to compete against such teams as Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Arkansas.

One event Wieczorek is sure to focus on is the season début of junior Mark Battista in the steeplechase.

“I’m going to try to groom him for the event,” Wieczorek said. “Try to mold him into a guy who can score some points for us in the steeplechase at the Big Ten championships.”

The Illinois native has run the event before and now considers it his forte.

“This is kind of my thing,” said Battista, who ran cross-country and the two-mile in high school. “We have some high hopes for the event this season, and I’m excited.

“I’m looking forward to using some of my cross-country skills on the track,” he said. “If I can run 9:15:00 or faster, I’d be happy.”

But aside from welcoming the athletic challenge that lies ahead, the Hawkeyes will also get the chance to enjoy California.

“That’s one of the fun things about collegiate athletics and track and field in particular,” Wieczorek said. “It gives the athletes the opportunity to see the country and go some places they haven’t gone. It’s a part of the education the student-athlete gets that is really valuable.”

The women from Iowa’s track and field team will also share in that experience.

Unlike the men, however, this is the team’s second outdoor meet of the 2010 season. Coaches chose seven of their fastest distance runners to compete at Stanford this weekend.

Amanda Hardesty, Betsy Flood, McKenzie Melander, Lindsay Anderson, and Megan Ranegar will compete in the 5-kilometer race, and Lauren Hardesty and Brittany Dlhy will run the 1,500 meter.

Iowa head distance coach Layne Anderson said his runners have seen success at Stanford for the past few seasons, and he chose his roster based on the runners’ strong performances during indoor season.

“It’s not a meet we come to unless we feel we’re ready to run fast,” Anderson said.

He largely credited the meet’s location for his women’s success. He said the warmer weather makes the venue appealing, and the competition is centered on longer events because of the “great conditions for running fast distance times.”

Stanford will only be the second outdoor meet of Ranegar’s college career. The freshman said she has only run the 5-kilometer distance on an indoor track and during high school cross-country but never on an outdoor track.

Still, Ranegar said she has confidence in her teammates’ abilities after a long season of training indoors and on snowy roads.

“They can only get better,” she said, “and this is a great meet to do it.”

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