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Freshman runner adjusts to team

BY ELDON GIANNAKUOROS | SEPTEMBER 27, 2011 7:20 AM

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Running was a part of Kayla Beattie's life before she learned to walk.

"Both my parents ran in college at Bowling Green University in Ohio, so I just kind of grew up around the sport," she said. "When I was younger, they would push me in a jogging stroller as they went on runs. As I got older, I ran alongside them."

The closeness and fraternity Beattie associated with running seemed to dissipate as she reached high school, because she spent most of her prep career flying solo. Beattie far surpassed the skills of her school's cross-country teams — both boy's and girl's — and learned self-reliance the hard way with only her coach to motivate her through workouts as she trained alone.

That changed from the moment she hit the gym as a Hawkeye. Beattie has yet to compete in the Black and Gold, but she's beginning to bond with her teammates and coach Layne Anderson as she gears up for her first college test on Saturday in the Loyola Lakefront Invitational.

"The team and Coach Anderson are the two main reasons I picked Iowa; I knew the girls on the team were girls I could fit in with," Beattie said. "It's a lot of fun having three girls next to you on hard workouts, when you're just struggling to finish but you know there are three of your teammates right there with you."

Along with helping revive Beattie's sense of community in her sport, the freshman's training partners are also helping her grow as a competitor.

"I've been doing my workouts with three seniors, and they've just helped me so much," she said. "The first weeks and the first few workouts, I struggled a bit just adjusting to a new coach and a different training plan, but they were really helpful."

Anderson said he feels competing alongside Hawkeye athletes will give Beattie the time and the space she needs to find her stride as a competitor.

"A good thing for her is that we've got some seniors and some older kids who are at and around her level, so she doesn't come in with the expectation that she has to be the No. 1 girl," Anderson said. "If she is, great — but she also understands we've got some great people, so even if she races well and ends up being our second or third or fourth, that could still mean she's racing at a very high level."

Anderson said he feels a talent such as Beattie, who won two gold medals at the Pan American Junior Games this past summer, is joining the Hawkeyes "at just the right time." The ninth-year coach said he has put together one of Iowa's best teams in recent memory, and senior Betsy Flood said Beattie will play a large role in whatever success the Hawkeyes have this season.

"Since she's been here, it's just been great; she's really focused and seems to have adjusted to college really well," Flood said. "She's a great addition, and she's going to help our team do great things this year."

Beattie's will have some extra support in Chicago on Saturday. The meet is less than an hour from her hometown of Woodstock, Ill., and she said her parents and high-school coaches will be on hand to cheer her on. It won't be the only joyful reunion she has with her family and friends this season.

"I wanted to stay in the Midwest partly so my parents could continue to watch me run and come to my meets," she said. "Three of our meets are in Illinois, so I'll have support at a lot of our meets this season."

No matter where she finds herself racing, Beattie will find herself in a close group of teammates and friends.

"I'm just really happy that I chose Iowa," she said. "Every day, there's just small reminders that I really made the right decision."


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