Senior trackster attributes security to success

BY CODY GOODWIN | APRIL 19, 2012 6:30 AM

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Iowa City was just far enough away, but just close enough for home for McKenzie Melander.

The Apple Valley, Minn., native felt comfortable being just under five hours away from her family. Melander said she could still go home when she needed to, but was able to feel the college pressures of being far away at the same time.

But there was no need for her to go home. Melander felt comfortable in Iowa City, in large part because of head coach Layne Anderson. Anderson has coached the senior in both cross-country and track and field throughout her Hawkeye career.

But what really made Melander comfortable with her college coach, she said, was his compassion and attitude toward his athletes — he truly cares about them, both as students and as runners.

"Coach was one of the first people to call me when coaches were allowed to start calling," the senior said. "I really liked his training philosophy, and after I took a visit, it just felt like it was the right fit for me."

Melander was quick to point to Anderson's conservative coaching style as a factor in bringing her to the Black and Gold. She said she loves the idea of focusing on individual needs and being patient throughout the season.

She remembers when her head coach made a personal trip to her house for a visit. He sat and talked with Melander and her family. That was a huge sign that Iowa was the right choice.

"Little things like that showed how much he valued me," Melander said.

Melander said the consistency of Anderson's training regimen and philosophy — and the regularity of her practice schedules — is one of the leading reasons she's reached the success she has today.
And the success reached all sorts of new heights.

Melander has tallied more than 12 all-Big Ten honors between the indoor track, outdoor track, and cross-country seasons. She earned a trip to the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships last season after setting a school-record mile time at the Notre Dame Last Chance Meet. She went on to earn second-team all-American honors in the 1,500-meter run, placing 15th in the nation.

So far during her senior campaign, Melander has racked up more and more personal bests as the meets continue to come — her latest was 15:57.13 minutes in the 5,000-meter run at the Stanford Invitational.

That time has placed her at the top of the Big Ten rankings in the event by 16 seconds.

The head coach was looking for these kinds of results when he first began training Melander her freshman year.

"There's a confidence that we have a program here — while it's not 100 percent successful — it's a program that lends itself to being successful," Anderson said. "The odds are certainly stacked in our favor. People who come in and see that, based upon past results, if we work hard and listen to my coaches, there's a good chance I can be successful."

Melander said another huge factor in her success as a Hawkeye was her teammates. She said training with Betsy Flood, Brooke Eilers, and Mareike Schrulle has helped to shape her into a potential Big Ten champion as much as anything.

"We have a good senior class that I've been able to run with all four years," Melander said. "Betsy and I have always been pretty close — both in running times, and she's been my training partner my entire career here.

"Everybody I've always been around has always had a positive attitude, and that has always helped."
Schrulle, a graduate student from Germany who ranks second behind Melander in the 5,000-meter run, said her time in Iowa City has been grand — especially because she's gotten to train with athletes like Flood and Eilers.

But the teammate she always looks forward to training with — just as everybody else does — is Melander.

"We are all pretty even on the team," she said. "But [McKenzie] is definitely the strongest runner on our team. We all try to help each other, but someone always has to lead."

Who else but McKenzie Melander?

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