Former UI trackster Praska trains for Olympics in Iowa City


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Former Hawkeye Bethany Praska continues to train in Iowa City in preparation for the Olympic Trials.

The former Hawkeye middle-distance runner can be found partaking in Iowa's track and field practice at 2:50 p.m. every day. She performs the same warm-up, practice, and cool-down routines she did for four years with the Black and Gold.

Praska, the 2011 Big Ten champion in the 800 meters, is pursuing post-college athletics and has chosen to continue her training in Iowa City.

The 2011 All-American put together a strong pair of international performances this past summer. She traveled to the Netherlands on Aug. 6, where she posted a 2:05.01 time in the 800 meters. She turned in a new personal-best 2:03.74 in the same event a week later in Belgium.

Still, Praska said, practicing with her former teammates has helped her the most. Most importantly, she said she stayed because of the coaches.

"Because of coach [Clive] Roberts," she said when asked why she trains at Iowa. "He's trained me all through college."

She said that if it hadn't been for Roberts, she wouldn't have been nearly as successful.

"I've made all the progress and got to where I am with his training," she said. "I'm going to stay for that."

Roberts agreed, adding that his athlete probably felt more at home in Iowa City than anywhere else when it came to training for her ultimate goal: the Olympic Trials.

"I think she felt like she had a good training [atmosphere]. She felt like I would put her in the best possible situation to [succeed]," he said. "The University of Iowa Athletics Department takes care of you, even when everything is said and done.

'You're a Hawkeye for life'

The four-year assistant coach also said the Colorado native has made significant improvements from the first time he saw her run. He said her running style at her first Big Ten championships was "atrocious."

"Bethany was struggling just to get around the track," he said.

Roberts said he believes the 22-year-old's improvement over the years can show younger athletes that major development is possible. Before Praska left the Hawkeye program, she had claimed three Big Ten titles, earned All-American status in both indoor and outdoor track, and collected four school records.

Even if her former teammates joke around by calling Praska "coach" at practice, they can learn something from her.

"When athletes look at her, they see where she's been and where she's at now," Roberts said. "If you stick with the program, if you commit yourself [and] if every single day, you're trying to be better, people look at her and think, 'This is what's possible.' "

Head coach Layne Anderson agreed, and he said having Praska around has been good both for the current program and for her relationship with Roberts.

"She's definitely made strides with him," he said.

The relationship between Roberts and Praska has developed over each of the years that Praska has been at the university.

"We've been building a relationship for quite some time," Roberts said. "She's a special young lady. We've spent four years working together. That time spent together strengthened our relationship."

Praska is also taking this time in Iowa City to finish up classes she needs for her degree. The fifth-year Spanish major, who is taking classes in education, said that while academics are important, she wants to see how far her post-college athletics career can take her.

"Right now, I'll definitely see where running goes," she said. "That's not something you can put away for a while and get back into."

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