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Frosh sparkles in steeplechase

BY MARIO WILLIAMS | APRIL 14, 2015 5:00 AM

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On April 3, Hawkeye freshman Marta Bote Gonzalez set foot on the track at the prestigious Stanford Invitational in Palo Alto, California, and competed in the women’s 3,000-meter steeplechase. She hadn’t run in the event in more than six months.

However, not competing in her signature event didn’t stop her from finishing with a bang and pleasing her team and coaches.

Bote Gonzalez set an Iowa record in the event when she finished second in her section and crossed the finish line with a personal best of 10:23.15. The previous school mark was 10:26.54.

“During the race, I wasn’t thinking about the pace or the time,” she said. “I just wanted to have fun, and when I finished, I was like, ‘Oh my God, the time.’

“I felt really good.”

The 3,000-meter steeplechase is a fierce event that consists of seven and a half laps, four steeples per lap, and one water jump per lap.

The native of Mérida, Spain, is no stranger when it comes to the steeplechase. It started when she was 12 and competed with her team, Emerita Atletica. Her head coach at the time, Paco Rivero, suggested that she should compete in the steeplechase.

From there, she learned to love it.

Bote Gonzalez has competed in the women’s steeplechase in two World Junior Championships. The first was in Ukraine, in which she  finished seventh. The second was in Oregon last summer, in which she didn’t qualify.

Despite not competing in the event for some time, she had no problem shining. Prior to Stanford, she trained for about two weeks to gear up for her return, and her time was eight seconds faster than her time in Oregon.

“I just felt very comfortable,” she said. “It’s just a big difference because this was my first steeplechase in college.”

Iowa coach Layne Anderson works closely with her during training for the steeplechase, which she believes is vital to her success. She does the regular running and technique workouts with her teammates, then moves on to hurdles and water jumps.

Anderson wanted an athlete who would be able to bring what Bote Gonzalez has to the program, and in fact, she decided to commit to Iowa because of Anderson.

“One of the nice things about her is that she’s a very good hurdler already, very good on the water jumps, and she’s not someone who’s trying to learn the steeplechase for the first time,” Anderson said. “Marta works very hard and has big goals that she will do well.”

Bote Gonzalez is the only athlete on the Iowa track and field team who competes in the steeplechase.

The steeplechase hasn’t been a big event for the program in the past, but Iowa Director of Track and Field Joey Woody hopes she can lead the way in years to come.

“Marta is only a freshman, and maybe we can attract more kids who want to do the steeple,” Woody said. “The steeplechase is definitely a challenging specialty event. She had the tools when we recruited her to do well in that event, and I hope she continues to progress.”

Perhaps Bote Gonzalez may progress; she has a number of goals set for the remainder of the outdoor season.

“I like a challenge; that’s just my personality,” she said. “I like to improve, beat people, and out-do myself.

“I also think I can do great for Big Tens and continue to contribute a lot to the team.”

Follow @marioxwilliams on Twitter for news, udpates, and analysis about the Iowa track and field team.


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