Commentary: Season of records for Iowa women’s track and field

BY AMY TIFFANY | MARCH 09, 2011 7:20 AM

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The Iowa women’s track and field team broke only one record in the previous two seasons. But this season, the squad has shattered four school marks.

Distance, middle distance, and throwers all have record holders, and some records were broken more than once. At the Big Ten meet, the Hawkeyes crowned one individual champion, and finished in the top three places numerous other times.

What does it mean?

It’s a step in the right direction in the process of turning the entire program around. Head coach Layne Anderson said the program is “light years” ahead of where it was two years ago. This season is a big deal.

It’s a season of firsts.

A program that was struggling only a few years ago is stepping up to the front row. The results from the Big Ten championships and athletes traveling to the NCAA meet might not show it, but this year’s accomplishments range further and stretch longer than previous years.

In the 2009 and 2010 indoor seasons, no school records were set except for Karessa Farley’s 60-meter-hurdle mark in 2009. That event had no Iowa competitors this indoor season.

This year, the mile, 800 meters, weight throw, and 4-by-4-relay records have all been broken. The Hawkeyes crowned senior Bethany Praska the Big Ten champion in the 600-meters with a time of 1:28.14, an event that unfortunately is not held at the indoor or outdoor NCAA championships.

Although her 600 time didn’t break a school record, it falls within a second of the record, set in 2008.

Sophomore captain Kelsey Taylor broke the record in the weight throw Feb. 18 with a toss of 18.40 meters. Junior McKenzie Melander broke the school record in the mile with a time of 4:39.78 at the last-chance meet March 5. The 4-by-4-relay team of freshman Ashley Liverpool, senior captain Tiffany Hendricks, junior Nicole Erickson, and Praska broke the school record at Big Tens with a time of 3:37.58 on Feb. 27, and Praska broke the record in the 800 at the last-chance meet March 5 with a time of 2:05.36.

Even though only two athletes, Praska in the 800, and Melander in the mile, will travel to College Station, Texas, this weekend for NCAAs, there should be even more Hawkeyes going.

Junior Betsy Flood in either the 3,000-meter or 5,000-meter should be heading south this weekend. So should a handful of other athletes.

This indoor season, a couple of underclassmen made statements about the future of the program, too.

Liverpool took second in the 400-meter final at the Big Tens. Freshman sprinter Erin Jones competed March 5 in the last chance in the 200 meter and took fourth with a time of 24.21. If they made this splash as freshmen, what does that say about the future?

Only a season ago there wasn’t the bold attitude this year’s squad has and the confidence the coaches have in the program. Yes, there are still areas that need to be “beefed up,” as Anderson said, but if two freshmen made it to the finals, for example, the future looks strong.

And here’s the real kicker — there’s still the outdoor season.

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