Poland native Placzek finally getting into the swing of things

BY AMY TIFFANY | MAY 05, 2011 7:20 AM

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International students often have a difficult time transitioning to college. Add in the grueling sport of cross-country in the fall, followed by back-to-back seasons of track and field — indoor and outdoor — and the transition is even more of a challenge.

Freshman Lena Placzek had a rough start to her freshman year on the Iowa women’s cross-country and track and field teams, but this outdoor season, she has begun to adapt well.

The native of Poznan, Poland, was a redshirt during her first cross-country and indoor track seasons as she struggled with the adjustments of living in a new country, training, and minor injuries. But now, she has finally built some momentum and has seen her times improve.

“In the beginning, I think it was hard for her to transition because she didn’t run indoor,” said senior Lauren Hardesty, who began training with Placzek about halfway through the track season. “But she’s slowly been coming back. You can see it every week.”

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Placzek ran the 1,500 meters at the Stanford Invitational March 25-26 with a time of 4:40.04, and at the Sun Angel Classic in Tempe, Ariz., on April 7-9, with a time of 4:40.10, which head coach Layne Anderson said were decent.

But only in the last few weeks have she and Anderson been pleased with her results. In Placzek’s first 800-meter race of her collegiate career, she ran 2:13.76 at the Musco Twilight meet on April 23 and took third.

At the Drake Relays on April 29, she ran on two relay teams. In the distance medley relay, she ran the first leg, which is 1,200 meters, and kept a solid middle-of-the-pack place.

Running the second leg in the 4x800, the baton was handed off to Placzek, and the Hawkeyes were in last place. Over her two laps, she passed numerous competitors, a hard feat when one receives the baton and is trailing.

Placzek will mainly focus on the 800 and 1,500 during her time as a Hawkeye. Anderson said he also wants to try her in the 3K, and in the future sees her as a really versatile runner who can train with the top long-distance athletes.

“If you just look at what she’s done already, it’s really amazing,” Hardesty said. “She’s had a really successful track career already.”

With the outdoor track and field season entering the championship season, Placzek has a lot to look forward to.

“I’m just really excited for next year,” she said. “I know that it will be different next year, that I can start practicing really hard and run really fast.”

She said one of the reasons she chose Iowa was because Anderson went to Poland to watch her race and was the only coach out of all the teams recruiting her to do so.

“The most important thing was that he came to Poland,” Placzek said. “It was impressive that he came all the way to Poland to talk with me.”

She also chose Iowa because the athletes already on the team run similar times, and the team was a little smaller and more personal than some of the other schools recruiting her.

It may not have been the freshman year she was expecting, but in the relay legs she ran in at the Drake Relays, she was the standout for the Hawkeyes in those events.

“I just told her with more races and more training, you’re going to get there,” Anderson said. “We’ve had enough time to progress each week and get a couple more races in, and she’s certainly gotten faster. I think last weekend, that [Drake Relays] was certainly a good indicator of what she’s going to do with us going forward.”

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