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Women's cross-country set for regional rebound

BY ELDON GIANNAKOUROS | NOVEMBER 11, 2011 7:20 AM

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The Iowa women's cross-country team will face its third-straight week of top-flight competitors as it tries to keep its season alive at the NCAA Midwest Regional in DeKalb, Ill., on Saturday.

"We've done a lot of work this year, and we have a lot of potential; this is our last shot to show people what we can do," senior McKenzie Melander said.

The confidence with which the Hawkeyes began the season has waned over the past two meets; the harriers have struggled with illnesses and failed to meet many of the expectations they had set for themselves.

But coach Layne Anderson said he isn't overly worried by the squad's struggles as his Hawkeyes head into one of the last and most important meets of their season.

"Our deficiencies in the last two meets have been more health-related — just people being sick, people being a little under the weather, not that they weren't talented, not that they had a running-related injury that was holding them back," he said. "It's just that time of year when people get sick … [but] I'm optimistic. As of Wednesday afternoon, everyone has been fine.

"If we can line up with our best kids at 100 percent, we have a good shot to beat Michigan and have an outstanding race."

While the Hawkeyes have athletes that are more than capable of qualifying for nationals individually, a team qualifying effort would be far more fitting for a squad that has preached the importance of teamwork throughout the season.

"I think we definitely are looking to qualify the team, just because we've got a lot of depth this year compared with other years," Megan Ranegar said. "Last year, we just had Betsy Flood [run at nationals]. I went and watched; it was really cool to see her race, but it was also really hard. She went and did her run-outs, we said good luck, and then we had to get off the course and she had to go out there and do it by herself. It's never fun to leave a teammate out there."

The group will have to put together a performance far different from the ones it has had in recent meets in order to keep the whole team on the course. The Black and Gold ran their best meet of the season at the Loyola Lakefront Invitational in Chicago in October, and Anderson said he's hoping to channel the relaxed atmosphere that accompanied the Loyola win in order to extend the in DeKalb.

"We have to go out and have seven ladies healthy and ready to go. If we do that, the outcomes will be more like they were at Loyola and less like they were at Big Tens and Wisconsin," Anderson said, referring to two of Iowa's poorer efforts of the fall. "We want [Loyola]-type effort; if we perform like that and don't advance, I think we'd be fine with the outcome.

"But if we have people fall short, people under the weather, [or] if something goes wrong, then I think this group would be disappointed."

Flood, who has attended the national meet as an individual runner, said the team's work hasn't been in vain even if it should fall short on Saturday.

"I don't think there's anyone on our team who's not going to do everything we can do to make it to nationals," Flood said. "I still have the mentality that if — when all is done — we've done everything we could do, I think I'll still be content no matter what happens."

As one of the Hawkeyes' final trials approaches, Anderson said he's confident about the team that precipitated so many positive predictions at the start of the season.

"I still feel like it's an outstanding team; we're heading to the meet, everybody's healthy, and I think everybody's in good spirits," he said. "Everybody's just looking forward to going there, having fun, competing at a regional meet, and making every effort we can to make it to a national championship."


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