Iowa runner returns home for NCAAs

BY BEN SCHUFF | JUNE 08, 2011 7:20 AM

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Iowa’s track and field athletes will enjoy a home-state advantage this week when competing at the NCAA championships in Des Moines, but no one will feel more at home than Betsy Flood.

The Hawkeye junior, who is from Des Moines, said the prospect of running at nationals in front of her family and friends was a motivating factor during the qualifying rounds.

“That was definitely an extra push, to be able to go home,” Flood said. “I’d be pretty miserable if I didn’t make it.”

Head coach Layne Anderson said he knows running at home has carried extra importance for Flood, who will compete in the 5,000 meters on Friday and is one of six members of the track team who will run in Des Moines.

“I’d be lying if I said she isn’t excited to go run at home, to be in Des Moines, to be only miles from her house and run on a track she’s had great success on,” Anderson said.

The 21-year-old is no stranger to Drake Stadium. Flood ran at Dowling High in West Des Moines, where she was a four-time state champion on the Blue Oval.

During her senior year with the Maroons, she won Drake Relays titles in the 1,500 meters and the 4x800-meter relay.

“It’s comforting knowing I’ve [run at Drake] so many times,” Flood said. “A track is a track, but it’s going to be exciting.”

The Hawkeye captain automatically advanced to the finals of the 5,000 meters by finishing in the top-five of her heat at the West Regional. Flood ran a personal-best 16:04.46 on May 28 in Eugene, Ore., finishing third in her heat and fifth overall.

The meet was the just the latest confidence boost in what has been a solid stretch for the Iowa distance runner.

At the Drake Relays in April, Flood ran the lead leg of the 4x1,600-meter relay that placed second. She built on that performance at the Big Ten championships two weeks later with second-place finishes in both the 5,000 and 10,000 meters.

“She has a quiet confidence about herself that shows when she races,” Anderson said. “She goes out, and she’s not afraid to be aggressive. She’s not afraid to go for it late in a race.”

The other Hawkeyes

Anderson said he was pleasantly surprised to see Brooke Eilers join Flood in the 5,000 meters.

Eilers didn’t finish in the top five of her heat, so she had to watch and wait for the second heat to finish to see if she would qualify to run in the finals..

“It was a special moment,” Anderson said.

The Hawkeyes will also send their 4x400-meter relay team to Des Moines. Bethany Praska, Tiffany Hendricks, Ashley Liverpool, and Nicole Erickson will run in the semifinals on Thursday after posting their fastest time of the season, 3:35.93, at the Drake Relays the last time they competed at Drake Stadium.

Anderson suspects the foursome will have to post a new season-best — 3:33 or 3:34 — if the relay team is to advance to the NCAA finals, and Praska agreed.

“We’re definitely pleased with how we performed at [the Drake Relays],” Praska said. “We’re going to have step up, though, to get into the finals.”

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