Women’s track and field lineup shortened for a reason

BY AMY TIFFANY | APRIL 07, 2011 7:20 AM

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As distance runners, sprinters, high jumpers, and throwers all practiced at the Cretzmeyer Track Tuesday afternoon, they were all preparing for the same meet for the first time this outdoor season.

In three meets thus far, the Iowa lineup was not at full strength. Stanford, typically a better distance meet, LSU, a meet more focused on sprinters, and the smaller Central Invitational in Pella, Iowa, all cater to different types of track and field athletes.

“We try to get the kids to move forward, and whatever meet is going to allow them to do that more,” assistant coach Clive Roberts said. “Aid them in that, we’re going to go into that, especially early in the season.”

During the indoor season, the Iowa women’s track and field team had only three meets in which a large majority of its athletes participated. The track teams took a bus to every meet of the indoor season (except for senior Bethany Praska and junior McKenzie Melander, when they flew to College Station, Texas, to compete in NCAAs), so there is no problem transporting large numbers. But budget becomes a factor when flying is involved, which is the case in the outdoor season. Not every event group has been represented in weeks past.

Head coach Layne Anderson said the amount of travel is also an area of concern. Athletes who competed at Stanford and LSU had almost 12-hour days of travel. That amount of travel on back-to-back weekends isn’t healthy for Iowa’s elite athletes if they want to be rested and ready to go come postseason. He explained the staff doesn’t want that wear-and-tear at the beginning of the season.

The Hawkeyes took third place on April 2 at the LSU Invitational. If they had had their top distance runners there, they would have most likely placed in the top of their respective events and possibly moved up as a team to second place.

Although this could have happened, it’s not relevant in the big picture of what the team is trying to accomplish. It’s not because the Hawkeyes don’t want to take first place in every meet, they just have different goals in mind.

“Even though we didn’t have any of our female distance runners [at LSU] … it was pick and choose where our athletes can perform the best,” senior Bethany Praska said. “Third place overall is fantastic at a meet that we had never been to, but … in the grand scheme of things, we’re not worried about placing until we get to Big Tens, and right now, where our relays and our individual event groups can excel the best with the best competition [is where we go].”

This weekend, on the other hand, is a different story.

While there are seven or eight athletes who will compete at Cornell University in Mount Vernon, Iowa, this weekend — athletes Anderson said he believes will be at Big Tens — the majority of the team will travel to Arizona State for the Sun Angel Classic.

“But pretty much, now we’re back to just kind of everyone together,” Roberts said. “The key kids are going to Arizona State, so we have sprinters, jumpers, distance runners all going into the meet.”

Roberts said the season’s remaining meets might be a little different, but largely will be the same as this weekend. For the rest of the season, Iowa will most often bring its top competitors from all event groups.

“At the end of the day,” he said. “The University of Iowa is probably going to put the best kids on the track, period.”

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