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Iowa women’s cross country runners excel on and off the course

BY RYAN RODRIGUEZ | SEPTEMBER 19, 2013 5:00 AM

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The Iowa women’s cross-country team is known for success on the course; however, what many may not know is the team’s success in the classroom.

The 2012-13 program was named a U.S. Track and Field and Cross-Country Association All-Academic Team, an award that the squad has been honored with for the 10th-consecutive year. As a team, the Hawks earned a collective 3.36 GPA, and what’s more, senior Lena Placzek and junior Jocelyn Todd were named individual academic All Big-Ten all stars in July.

Most people probably can’t fathom having to balance the course load of a highly regarded Big Ten university such as Iowa with the extreme rigor that comes with being a Division-I college athlete.

However, for Placzek, the two go hand-in-hand.

“I think they’re definitely related because the personality of a person who is successful in the classroom is usually the same as the personality of someone who is successful in other areas of life, including sports,” she said. “So if you have good academics, you obviously have better motivation, better self-discipline, and your time management is better.

“I have to keep myself busy. If I don’t go to class, I know I’ll just sit around all day and not want to do anything.”

If you’ve ever talked to either head coach Layne Anderson or the 23 women on the roster, it becomes apparent that they all put high stock in their grades, and are all students who chose Iowa because of the opportunities afforded to them by earning a degree.

“I try to stress that coming to the University of Iowa and competing in the Big Ten is the recognition of and more importantly the adherence to a lifestyle,” Anderson said. “We’ve had probably more academic All-Americans that I can count off the top of my head, and I don’t think that’s any coincidence. It’s certainly something that we stress daily and recognize all the time.”

Anderson stresses academics to potential recruits and seeks top-level students as well as cross-country runners to join the Hawkeye family. One of these top recruits, freshman standout Samantha Zishka, noticed right off the bat the extreme level of competition she faced both on and off the field.

“It’s definitely more work, but I haven’t really had too much trouble adjusting,” she said. “As long as you come in with the mindset that you’re going to have to do hard work everywhere, then it gets easier to manage. Coach really stresses it, and I think it goes hand in hand. We try to get the academic All-American award every year, and Coach Anderson wants us to go for it again this year.”

Anderson will use the award as motivation for the upcoming year.

“The vast majority of the students in our program that are doing well athletically are also doing well academically, and I think that speaks for itself,” he said.


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