Iowa's distance runners consistently running well

BY CODY GOODWIN | APRIL 12, 2012 6:30 AM

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The women's 5,000-meter distance is a competitive field in the Big Ten, especially for the Hawkeyes.

Iowa holds four of the top 12 conference times in the event this spring, and three of those rank in the top five.

Senior McKenzie Melander leads both the group of Hawkeye runners and the conference as a whole, checking in a time of 15:57.13 minutes. Melander's personal-best — which she set last weekend at the Stanford Invitational — is also the only sub-16 minute time in the conference.

Another Iowa distance runner, Mareike Schrulle, ranks 16.60 seconds behind Melander; she clocked in at 16:13.73 for the second-best time in the conference. Megan Ranegar is ranked fifth, and veteran Betsy Flood is 12th in the event.

But any of these distance runners could finish anywhere on a meet-to-meet basis. One of them typically finishes near the top of the pack — around the top seven or eight in the race. The next Hawkeye will finish in the top 12 or so.

The trend began in the indoor season, during Iowa's trip to Nebraska for the Adidas Classic; Schrulle claimed first place in the mile. The following four places were pinned down by Hawkeyes. It happened again a few weeks later at Notre Dame, but Schrulle placed second in the 3,000-meter race, with Eilers and Melander following in sixth and 18th.

The Hawkeye harriers continued to showcase strong outings in the indoor conference championships when Schrulle and Eilers placed sixth and seventh, respectively. And this past weekend Melander, Schrulle, and Ranegar all tallied well-timed races in the Stanford invitational in Palo Alto, Calif. Melander snagged the top time, and Schrulle and Ranegar followed close behind.

Head coach Layne Anderson said there's no formula to tell who finishes where; he said they just run.

"We have five or six ladies that, on any given day, are every bit the others' equal," he said. "We're a program that really functions on a consistent routine, a consistent approach."

The athletes maintain the same practice schedule every day throughout the indoor and outdoor seasons. What the head coach says to his athletes remains the same, too: Fight for the front, and continue to run hard.

"Coach always tells us that we should try to be in the front pack so that we don't get in trouble with all the other people around us," Schrulle said. "We all try to be somewhere up front, and then there's always that one person who leads [our] pack."

Schrulle, a graduate student from Germany, said each of the Hawkeye runners push each other during practice, which makes each better. Melander credited Schrulle for her success; Schrulle's competitiveness to be the best has helped push her to earn her tops in the conference and current fifth rank in the nation.

"I love working out with Mareike," the senior said. "She's there to work. When things get hard, she's still pushing it and will keep her going."

This encouragement, Anderson said, is a big part of the group's long-term success.

"All of those girls definitely live the life of a successful collegiate distance runner. They don't take any shortcuts," he said. "There's strength in numbers. Getting together in our sufferings and sharing in our successes is a big part of team building."

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