Women's track hopes for a big bump in team finish at home

BY AMY TIFFANY | MAY 13, 2011 7:20 AM

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All season long, coaches and athletes on the Iowa women's track and field team have been talking about one part of their season: The outdoor Big Ten championships and beyond.

It's finally here.

These Big Tens hold special meaning for five seniors on the squad, who have been through four weightlifting coaches and have experienced the transition of hiring a new head coach — former head coach James Grant passed away the spring before they started college. They have seen whirlwind of changes not many would have predicted.

As they embark on the Big Tens today, which will take place on the Cretzmeyer Track, the Hawkeyes are looking for tangible improvements after coming off a disappointing finish with an eighth-place tie at the indoor Big Ten championships — though Iowa was only 12 points off fourth place.

"We did a lot better indoor this year than we had past years, and we were really close to the next few teams in front of us. I think that we could do a lot better," senior Lauren Hardesty said. "I feel like we could definitely be in the top five or better if everyone performs to her ability."

One senior, who has always the team first, hopes to make personal contributions to help the team improve in the ranks.

"Score, score, score," senior captain Tiffany Hendricks said. "Move up in the ranks as a team as a whole, and finish off the year making sure that the teams left in a good position, which I think that's an automatic, it'll happen, but just end Big Tens with a bang. It's at home; it's important for us to do really well."

A bump in place is a reasonable goal for the Hawkeyes.

"I'd be happy with any kind of improvement," Hendricks said. "But I feel like we're capable of at least fifth, really."

Head coach Layne Anderson has similar beliefs.

"If we split the difference and find a way to be sixth, or can we have a near perfect meet and come out of this thing fourth, that would be a best-case scenario," he said. "So I think it's wide open. The good thing for us is our kids are healthy, well-prepared, and I think extremely confident about the prospects for this weekend. I think now it just comes down to the execution part."

The senior class — Hendricks, Bethany Praska, Hannah Roeder, Amanda Hardesty, and Lauren Hardesty — makes a big impact on the team and has faced these changes, what Anderson called the "lean years." Some events used to have no participants from Iowa.

This year is a different story. The throwers and jumpers, who used to be slim, have now bulked up.
"For the first time, we have people who can score, I think, in almost every single event," Hardesty said. "And more than one person. Even last year we had no people in some events... We're automatically not scoring in those, so it's kind of exciting we at least have a chance to do that in every event."

Arguably, Anderson said, there are a few teams at the top of the Big Ten — including Ohio State, Minnesota, Penn State — that as a team, might be out of the Hawkeyes' reach.

But in certain events, such as the 4x400-meter relay, Iowa has the top time. At the Drake Relays on April 27, the Hawkeyes recorded a school record and the fastest time in the Big Ten this season at 3:35.93.

Whether Iowa can continue its successes from the indoor and outdoor season will soon be determined, and all five seniors will have a big part in it.

"If this group can go from last to fourth — fourth or fifth — I think that would be an extreme opposite sides of the spectrum," Anderson said. "I think they would remember the lows of the lows, but they would also feel some great ownership and some responsibility of the highs of the highs."

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