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Women tracksters seek improvement through recruiting

BY MICHELE DANNO | APRIL 14, 2010 7:30 AM

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Iowa assistant coach Clive Roberts said he has made approximately 800 phone calls to potential recruits this year. Of those, the staff hopes to sign around 20.

“Eighty percent of my time is spent recruiting,” Roberts said. “It’s what we need to do to be successful.”

With a roster of roughly 55 women, the track and field team is one of the biggest sports at the collegiate level, making recruiting both extensive and expensive.

Roberts said the process officially begins on July 1 — the first day he’s allowed to contact high-school athletes entering their senior year. From that point on, he said, the most important part is building a relationship with the potential athletes.

Because Iowa’s program seeks women worldwide, Roberts said, there is always the possibility an athlete won’t choose Iowa, which seems to happen more often than not.

Head coach Layne Anderson said it’s one of the most challenging parts of the recruiting process — finding an athlete who meets all of Iowa’s standards and vice versa.

“Recruiting is a funny business,” he said. “Our program has had some great successes in the past, so you would think it would be easier to recruit kids.”

The staff has come up with a three-point expectation system, and pure talent doesn’t top the list. Roberts said personality and attitude is the most important, followed by athletic and academic performance in high school.

Because the Hawkeye women’s track and field team boasts six-straight top academic awards over the last six years, he said a student-athlete’s commitment to school is no less important than to the sport.

“To a certain degree, you might not get the most talented [women], but I’m more interested in getting the ones who work the hardest,” Roberts said. “I want them to represent our state — no divas or prima donnas — just good Iowa-type kids.”

The NCAA only allots 18 scholarships to the women’s team — freshmen through fifth-year seniors. Because the team can’t offer much money, coaches said, they are forced to find other ways to attract top performers.

Multi-event coach Christi Smith said she tries to make a personal impression on her recruits — something she said is more important than her credentials as a coach.

The multi-event, in which only one Hawkeye competes this season, is one area the team needs depth in for next year. Smith said she has only one strong prospect for 2011 — a senior out of the Air Force Academy.

The throwing squad, consisting of six first-year athletes — only one of whom is on a substantial scholarship — is in need of experience. For next year, the program will add two of Iowa’s top prospects, both of whom are West High seniors.

So far, Anderson said, his staff has signed six scholarship athletes for next season, and he expects four or five more to sign in the near future. The coaches are also working to bring in walk-ons and nonscholarship athletes.

“We have to turn over a lot of stones and look under a lot of bushes to find [women] who are the right fit for Iowa,” Anderson said. “We might spend a lot of time talking to someone, and then she’ll just end up just choosing another school.

“But if you take it personally, you’ll be pretty disappointed in this business.”


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