Praska honored as All-American, but looks ahead

BY AMY TIFFANY | MARCH 22, 2011 7:20 AM

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Iowa senior Bethany Praska is a first-team All-American in the 800 meters.

In the 800-meter preliminary race at the NCAA indoor women’s track and field championships on March 11, she ran a personal best of 2:05.01, taking third place in the event. Entering the preliminary, Praska wasn’t even ranked in the top eight.

She took seventh place in the final on March 12 with a time of 2:07.24.

The top eight finishers, including Praska, earned first-team All-American status.

Though she said the final race result wasn’t quite what she expected or wanted it to be, she said it was a “learning experience.”

“I’m really, really happy and blessed to have made it to finals,” she said. “But … it’s a really physical race; I got caught up in the other girls running.”

She said the track in College Station, Texas, is 200 meters, which is a typical track for the indoor season. But most track and field athletes prefer outdoor tracks, which are 400 meters around. With a larger track, there are fewer curves, and athletes have more room to stretch their legs.

Competition isn’t as packed to the inside lane, and they have more room and time to pass other competitors.

Her main coach, assistant coach Clive Roberts, said Praska has not run many 800s in her college career, and the physicality of the 800-meter final was something she had rarely seen. Praska, who, Roberts said, is used to leading races, was thrown off a bit in the final when that wasn’t the case.

“It’s already a tight track; if you’re going to make a move, you have to do it quickly,” Praska said. “Finals were with other extremely talented and competitive 800 runners; everyone tries to make that move for a great finish.”

Praska said that with the caliber of the athletes competing in the NCAAs, everyone was fighting for good running position. Roberts said Praska’s training program has always been geared toward running the 800 in the NCAAs and also set her up to win the 600-meter at the Big Ten championships.

“In training, in the 800 … I just think overall, she’s kind of gotten really tough to the point where there’s nothing she feels can get in her way,” Roberts said.

But Roberts’ coaching philosophy creates a system that says Praska’s accomplishments are now in the past, and the 800 and 4-by-4-relay are now her focus for the outdoor season.

“I’m almost never satisfied, and some would look at that as a fault, some would look at that as a positive,” Roberts said. “And I’ve put that spirit on [Praska] on a daily basis in practice to where she’s not satisfied, either. She’s always looking to see how far she can push her body.”

While her focus is on the upcoming season, her accomplishments in the indoor season are still a big step for the women’s track and field program and for Praska.

“To get into that meet, to run a personal record in the preliminary, to get to the finals,” head coach Layne Anderson said. “I think that says all that needs to be said.”

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