Ames native, track recruit, learns cross-country at Iowa


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Gabrielle Stearns is one of the 11 new freshman runners for the women’s cross-country team. She chose to leave her hometown — despite interest from a local Division-I school — in order to join the women’s cross-country team at Iowa.

But Stearns didn’t leave any no-name town. She left Ames.

The 18-year-old had the option of running cross-country and track for the Cyclones. But Stearns made the decision to pursue her college career 138 miles away at rival Iowa.

When asked about leaving Ames, and the opportunity to run for a highly touted Iowa State program, Stearns made it sound fairly simple.

“I guess I just have always been a Hawk fan,” she said. “I liked the atmosphere in Iowa City. I like my coach; he’s awesome.”

Her coach, Layne Anderson, had similar feelings toward Stearns and her family. Despite her hometown, he knew had a chance of landing her.

“I thought we had a good shot, because they loved the campus and community [at Iowa] before we even began recruiting her,” he said.

The relationship between the Hawkeyes and Stearns began in the fall of her senior season. When she visited, it became evident to Anderson that she was a quality person and someone he wanted on the team.

“We liked her personality, [and] she had a lot of the qualities we looked for,” Anderson said. “She’s a communicator; she’s an easy person to work with.”

Stearns’ father, Jeff Stearns, took a back seat during recruiting and let his daughter decide where she would attend college. But he ended up happy with the result.

“It was among Iowa, Iowa State, and Minnesota,” said Jeff Stearns, who is originally from eastern Iowa and rooted for the Hawkeyes even after moving to Ames.

Gabrielle Stearns did note, however, that part of the reason that she left Ames was for academic purposes as well as her interest in Iowa City.

“[Iowa State] didn’t have a nursing program, and I did want to get out of my hometown,” she said. “I just wanted to be a little bit more adventurous.”

She said she expects flak from Ames residents when she returns home to visit her family.

Being adventurous, as well as going to a school that suits her academic needs, seems like a good idea to the first-year runner, even as she has joined a cross-country program with a majority of freshmen roster.

So far, Stearns has found the team welcoming. Instead of being nervous around new teammates, a bond is forming.

A three-time state champion in numerous events, she does not seem to be intimidated by anything, and that attitude could help her as she begins her cross-country career.

Stearns — also a highly recruited volleyball player — never ran cross-country in high school, but she will run both track and cross-country at Iowa. Right now, however, she seems to be more focused on track.

But making an impact on the cross-country team doesn’t seem to be out of reach in the young runner’s future, even though she’s not expected to race much this season.

“Hopefully, throughout the years, I can compete in cross-country, because that would be really fun,” she said. “If I got up to pace with everyone else who has been doing this, maybe I could compete next year or in a couple of years. That would be really fun.”

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