Iowa women's cross-country to use inexperienced freshmen at Big Ten Championships


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You aren’t the head of the pack anymore. You don’t start first and finish first. You aren’t the best. Meets are bigger and packs are tighter. Runners are tougher.

These are all challenges that three freshmen on the women’s cross-county team have had to face this season in adjusting from high school. But as the season has gone on, Cindy Saliba, Courtney Martin, and Lisa Gordon have endured, and they understand the importance of the Big Ten championships on Oct. 28.

Martin, a Story City, Iowa, native, noted the importance of running at a high level.

“We freshmen don’t have a ton to lose with three more seasons,” she said. “So that is a big part of our motivation — knowing that some of our teammates don’t have any races left.”

The three freshmen seem poised, although they recognize that they are under pressure as they compete as first years.

“Being in the top seven [runners] as a freshman, there is going to be some pressure,” Saliba said. “The three of us are supposed to score, so there will be a little bit of pressure with the nature of the sport.”

The pressure of competing at high levels early in their careers is something these women have had to deal with all season.

“The biggest adjustment is just being around so many people who can run to your ability,” said Martin. “A lot of us D-I runners aren’t used to having competition in races, and now we kind of move down to the bottom and start over.”

Saliba said there are other obstacles in a runner’s first college year.

“Knowing my limits and my abilities and also being able to not get overwhelmed by other people in the race,” said Saliba. who is a former cross-country high-school MVP in the state of Oklahoma.

“Learning how to pass people, get around people — just learning how to run in a big race.”

After all the adjustments that the freshmen have made throughout this season, their head coach doesn’t want them to make any major changes for the upcoming Big Ten meet in East Lansing, Mich.

“It’s more business as usual, not putting an extra amount of focus into this meet,” head coach Layne Anderson said. “Not telling them, ‘We’re counting on you.’ It’s doing what we have done all year.”

His way of coping with young athletes has seemingly worked on at least one of his freshmen harriers who will run at the Big Ten meet.

“I would say that it is exciting more than intimidating,” Martin said. “We made the Big Ten team for a reason, so I don’t think that there is too big of a reason to be intimidated.”

Encapsulating their entire season as freshmen, Anderson seems to believe that although they will improve in future years, these three must go out and run to the best of their ability on Oct. 28.

“Be the best Cindy Saliba, the best Courtney Martin, or the best Lisa Gordon on Oct. 28 of 2012,” Anderson said. “Knowing that we won’t be the person that we will be in 2014 or 2015; we just have to be the best we can on that day.”

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