Iowa track's Beattie brings international experience


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The Pan American Games is a major sporting event featuring thousands of athletes in a variety of competitions. It's considered the second to only the Olympics.

Those who win Pan Am gold medals are both the best athletes in the Western Hemisphere and forces on the worldwide stage as well.

Iowa houses such an athlete.

Freshman Kayla Beattie — a Hawkeye cross-country and track runner — represented the USA in Miramar, Fla., as apart of the Pan American Junior team this past summer. But what's more impressive about Beattie's feat is that she didn't just attend the Pan Ams for the experience.

The freshman brought home two gold medals.

"Coming down the homestretch, just wearing the USA jersey was an honorable thing," Beattie recalls about her Pan Am 3,000-meter race. "And knowing that I crossed the line and won, not just for myself but for the country, and to be a part of the medal count — that was kind of cool."

Beattie won gold in the 5,000 meters and the 3,000 meters. She claimed the 5,000 meters in 16:48.44, winning the race by nearly six seconds. But she only won the 3,000 meters by just over a second, clocking in at 9:30.63.

"When they were saying my name [on the medal stand], they were also saying where I was from, my high school — and also, 'She'll be a freshman next year at the University of Iowa,' " Beattie said. "I hadn't even started here yet, but to be attached to that was pretty cool."

Before even thinking that she could represent the USA, the Woodstock, Ill., native had goals of winning both the 5,000 and 3,000 meters at the USA Junior National Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Ore. Beattie won one title, the 5,000, and she took second in the 3,000.

Gold or silver didn't matter, because she ran the qualifying times needed to be able to race again at the Pan-Ams.

But she had no idea what she had accomplished until after the race.

"I actually didn't really know about [the Pan Am Games] going into the meet," she said. "I had finished my 5K, and the national coach came over to me and gave me his card, saying I had qualified for the national team."

The national-team coach was coach Beth Alford-Sullivan, who is also the head track and cross-country coach at Penn State. The entire junior USA coaching staff was made up of college coaches from all around the United States, including Iowa throwing coach Scott Cappos; he was nominated by the USA Track and Field Association.

"It was a big honor for me," he said. "It was the first time I had gotten to represent the United States as a coach. It was really meaningful for me as well."

While Cappos was mainly coaching the throwers in Florida, he admitted to being especially supportive of Beattie during her time in the USA uniform.

"I just tried to let her know that if she needed anything, I'd be there to help her," the 16-year coach said. "In those roles, we don't coach a whole lot. We manage the athletes and get them what they need."

Cappos said he was extremely excited about Beattie's success, and he wasn't the only one.

"I was more watching in admiration," head coach Layne Anderson said about Beattie's Pan-Am championship runs. "I was just enjoying the moment with her … In championship races, time is irrelevant. The thing you're looking for is to win or place high."

While winning the Pan Ams is a great accomplishment, Anderson is the first to say that having Beattie on the Hawkeye roster will help the program.

"Her mindset has been, 'Hey, I'm here to help you guys get better, and I know being a part of this group is going to help me get better,' " he said. "I think we're seeing that."

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