Iowa women’s track and field team’s foundation is growing

BY AMY TIFFANY | MARCH 01, 2011 7:20 AM

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The Hawkeyes had more than just a couple of standouts at the Big Ten championships this past weekend.

This year, the Iowa women’s track team scored 56 points, tied for eighth place. But at times, they were inches or even hundredths of a second away from scoring more points. The Hawkeyes were only 12.5 points away from the fourth-place finisher.

Head coach Layne Anderson described Sunday, the final day of the competition, as an afternoon on which Iowa “caught fire.” With four runner-up performances and senior Bethany Praska’s first place-finish in the 600-meters almost back-to-back, the Hawkeyes finished on a high note.

Even though junior captain Betsy Flood ran in the 3,000-meter and the distance medley relay scored major points Feb. 26, Anderson said Iowa needed more of that kind of boost on day one — as well as an extra step on day two — to earn more points.

“We’ve still got some holes to fill,” Anderson said. “But again, I think that those last five events, to have the kind of finish to that meet we had, I think that’s a good representation of where we’re going as a program.”

Anderson hopes that the core of the team, which scored the points, will team with developing athletes to score more points in the future. And age isn’t a determining factor — Hawkeyes of all ages scored this past weekend.

“It’s really good and important to have differentiation of ages and levels, strengths, and weaknesses,” senior captain Tiffany Hendricks said.

“In the last two years, we’ve had some good individual performances, but when it comes to getting points up on the board, we haven’t come together as a team to get the numbers up there to be competitive with everyone else,” Praska said.

Hendricks said that when she came in as a freshman, the squad depended on a few people to pull the team along. As the team evolved over her career, she explained, the focus has shifted to develop a more well-rounded team.

The Hawkeyes always boasted a number of athletes who were atop the Big Ten, but as a team, the Hawks didn’t have the depth they are now building. Now, more of the track and field spectrum is covered.

Hendricks said the leadership has also been evolving. The veteran core of the team realized that to continue the progress, it’s vital for the underclassmen to understand the importance of the positive team dynamic they’ve created.

In the last few years, some of the athletes Iowa recruited out of high school were “off the radar.”

Anderson said his goal is to add quality athletes, some of whom compete at the highest level from the get-go, and others the Hawks bring in to develop.

“Now, there’s been a switch to getting some people who are really, really good but also getting the depth and the people who will develop and become really good and score points,” Hendricks said.

“It’s based on that shift in the recruiting method. We’re more focused on getting people who will really latch on to what we’re trying to do and know the right attitude.”

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