Iowa women harriers ready for season


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The Iowa women’s cross-country team will begin its season today by hosting the Iowa Open at the Ashton Cross-Country Course. The harriers ended last season seventh out of 27 teams at the Midwest Regional at the Newton Golf Course in Peoria, Ill., in November 2010. The seventh-place finish was not good enough to receive an at-large bid to the NCAA championships, however.

Not quite a year later, the team is eager to get back to work.

Head coach Layne Anderson said he is optimistic about the team this season.

“My best finish at Iowa was in 2009, when we placed 10th at the national level and fifth in the Big Ten meet, but this team on paper is probably better than the team that placed 10th nationally,” he said.

Most of the experienced runners will not compete in the first meet.

Instead, sophomores Katherin Rehn, Megan Ranegar and Jaisa Miller, juniors Nicole Benson and Kelesy Hart, and seniors Danielle Berndt and Jackie Laesch will run for the Hawkeyes this weekend.

Anderson said he wants to save his experienced runners until later in the season.

“This season, I want to be a little more conservative,” he said. “We are optimistic that by not racing some of our runners at the early stage, it gives us a chance to identify and have our top runners ready when the meets matter more.”

Anderson pointed to Berndt and Ranegar as runners who could have breakout weekends.

“Danielle was an NCAA qualifier last year, and Megan Ranegar was our third-best runner at regionals, and she has performed at a high level for us at times,” Anderson said. Ranegar ran a college-best 21:15 (6,000 meters) in the NCAA regional, which ranks 10th-all time at Iowa.

Hart and Laesch will be the most experienced Hawkeyes running in addition to Bradley transfer Nicole Benson. Hart finished the 2010 season with a personal best of 87th at 21:51.95 in the Midwest Regional. Last fall, Laesch finished 24th at the Hawkeye Invitational with a 11:20 in the 3,000 meters and 29th at the Iowa Invitational with a 11:27.

Senior McKenzie Melander said it was important to have the less-experienced runners compete in the first meet.

“We are looking for other girls to step up and have a good first race and compete for a spot on the traveling team,” she said.

Seniors Betsy Flood, Melander, and Brooke Eilers are three of the Hawkeyes’ top runners. Flood will try to make her third NCAA championship appearance this season; the Des Moines native finished the 2010 season as a All-Regional honoree when she placed ninth with a 20:22.71 in the Midwest Regional 6K.

“I’m excited to see them race, and hopefully, they can work well together,” Flood said.

The theme before the race this week was to stay focused, Anderson said. The Hawkeyes read a weekly chapter out of the book Goal Setting.

“This chapter is very appropriate for athletics,” Anderson said. “You got school and workouts — you can’t lose focus on what helps you succeed.”

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