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End of year championships help keep Cross Country team motivated

BY RYAN RODRIGUEZ | SEPTEMBER 17, 2013 5:00 AM

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Cross-country is a sport of inconsistency. Frequently changing rosters and events can make getting into a rhythm for perpetration and training difficult and inconsistent, a process that is made harder by the sometimes-extreme fluctuations in the schedule.

“We’re ultimately training for what lies ahead at the end of the season,” head cross-country coach Layne Anderson said. “The invitatinals and meets that we have during the beginning of the season, I view them more as a part of our training in preparation for the championship meet.”

The championships Anderson refers to are the Big Ten meet in November and the NCAA championships three weeks later.

After placing fourth at the Black & Gold Invitational Sept.13, the Hawkeyes won’t see action again until they travel to Minneapolis for the Roy Griak Invitational on Sept. 28. After that, they will go another three weeks before traveling to Madison, Wis., to run in the Wisconsin Inter-Regional.

Having almost a month off in between competitions would drive most athletes crazy. In cross-country, it is the nature of the beast, structured in a way that every event is essentially training to qualify for a Big Ten or NCAA championship. In fact, some of the women on the team actually prefer it.

“Honestly, I almost view it as a good thing,” freshman Katie Adams said. “In high school, most girls, or at least me, had a meet almost every single weekend, so my coaches were always a little bit cautious as to how hard they would work us during the week. But obviously, now, that’s not as much of a concern.”

In the minds of the runners, more down time means more time to prepare and improve for the ultimate goal of the Big Tens.

“That’s definitely what he stresses,” freshman Samantha Zishka said when talking about Anderson focusing on the bigger competitions. “He always says we don’t kneed to be in our top shape right now. We came in after the summer at about 75 percent of our total fitness, and we can work up to it. It’s OK, because the ultimate goal is the Big Tens, and that is when our performance really counts.”

Rest and rehabilitation are just as important in cross-country training as speed workouts while getting one’s stride down perfectly, a perhaps unseen advantage of the current lull in the season. It also provides the runners plenty of time to focus on the task at hand.

“It’s actually good to not have as many competitions, because then we can really focus on getting solid weeks of training one after the other and not having to worry about tapering for a competition,” Zishka said. “We can just get a solid block of training to get better for that competition.”

The team is currently ranked No. 9 in the top-10 rankings for the Midwest Region. In addition, Anderson has turned out six All-Americans and a Big Ten champion in addition to various other honors.

“I always say that those who have the greatest preparation are the ones that ultimately end up running the best,” Anderson said.

Whatever the views of the women on the team are toward their brief holiday, one thing is certain: Whatever they’re doing, it’s working.


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