Women harriers look to qualify for NCAAs


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The opportunity for the women's cross-country team to accomplish its season goal is finally here.

The Hawkeyes will vie for a spot in the NCAA meet when they compete at the NCAA Midwest Regional in Peoria, Ill., on Saturday at the Newman Golf Course.

"I think for our team to be successful at this meet, we need to have our first five runners as close together as possible," senior Lauren Hardesty said. "We need to get out quicker and be running with the top 30 from the beginning of the race.

"If we can do that, there is no reason we shouldn't perform well."

Though the team is ranked fifth in the region by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross-Country Coaches Association, the Hawkeyes have their sights set on qualifying automatically for the NCAAs — which would require a top-two finish.

Iowa State and Minnesota are ranked 1 and 2, respectively. Tulsa and Oklahoma are also ranked ahead of Iowa.

Last season the Hawkeyes were not eligible for the championship meet when they lost an at-large bid to Michigan.

"Our confidence is still fairly high, and our optimism seems to match that," head coach Layne Anderson said. "So all indicators are that the seven ladies who line up to compete on Saturday should run well."

In recent meets, the team has struggled with putting together a strong race from all of its competitors.

Iowa's eighth-place finish at the Big Ten championships especially displayed this. Junior Betsy Flood ran a career-best race, finishing eighth in just 20:36. But another of Iowa's standouts, junior Brooke Eilers, uncharacteristically placed 53rd (21:41).

The team agreed there is no easy way to correct the recent setbacks, but confidence and a positive attitude will help each runner reach their potential.

"I think this team is very talented, and given the right day, I think we have the potential to surprise ourselves and a lot of other people," Hardesty said. "If everyone's feeling good, I think it's realistic to have five All-Region performers from this group."

An individual must finish within the top 25 to be considered an All-Region runner.

In order to reach the NCAAs, the Hawkeyes have to come through on their expectations, something the team is prepared to do.

Flood believes the Hawks are ready to race, and she expects a solid performance from herself, along with each of her teammates.

"I know that people have made some big sacrifices to persevere to this point in the season," she said. "And I am really excited to see those pay off for them. I think our mindset is just to kill it.

"If we die and collapse during the race, then that happens, but at least we will not have run without hope."

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