The goals for the 2005 University of Iowa women’s cross country team and the 2006 Hawkeye women’s track team are the same – improvement. The Hawkeyes want to convert last season’s individual accomplishments into team success. Considering the talent returning and the new crop of student-athlete joining the squad, those goals don’t seem out of reach for 2005-06.
“We want to continue to raise the program on all fronts – athletically and academically,” said Head Coach James Grant. “Our first goal is to consistently finish in the top half of the Big Ten. Once we have established ourselves there, we can start to contend for a spot in the top three and then, eventually, for the conference team title. We also want to take at least 15 student-athletes to the NCAA Midwest Regional track meet and place in the top five there.”
Iowa returns eight of the 10 student-athletes who qualified for the 2005 regional track meet, and 22 of the 26 track letterwinners. In cross country, the Hawkeyes return eight of 11 letterwinners and all but one who ran at the NCAA Midwest Regional. The young squads only have two seniors – distance runners Nikki Chapple and Katie Donlon.
“We are very young on both teams, but have large rosters with some solid Big Ten competitors and lots of depth,” explained Grant. “As our student-athletes gain experience and confidence, their performances should improve. That will help us this year and in the near future.”
Juniors Peaches Roach and Tiffany Johnson, and sophomore Kineke Alexander led the Hawkeye track team in 2005. Each qualified for the NCAA Midwest Regional in three events. Roach snagged her third Big Ten high jump title during the indoor season, and her first all-America honor in that event outdoors. She also set the school indoor high jump record of 6-0 3/4. Johnson set school records in the indoor and outdoor triple jump and the 100-meter hurdles. Alexander earned all-America honors in the indoor and outdoor 400 meters in her first season, setting the outdoor school record.
In 2004, the cross country team was led by Chapple, junior Shannon Stanley and sophomores Meghan Armstrong and Racheal Marchand. All four return for 2005. Chapple was the first Hawkeye to cross the finish line in five of six races. She placed 12th at the regional meet, earning all-region honors. She also holds school records in the 4,000 and 6,000-meter races, and the Ashton Cross Country Course 4,000-meter record. Stanley led Iowa in the other race, and holds the school and course 3,000-meter record.
“On paper we have so much talent returning,” said Grant. “To be successful this year, we need our top student-athletes to perform at their full capabilities. We need a number of competitors to take a large step forward and contribute toward the team goals. When we’ve had team success in the past, it’s been on the shoulders of four of five student-athletes. To be a consistently good team, we need to spread that responsibility around.”
Lost are middle distance runner Aisha Hume, distance runners Jenni Capista, Michelle Sokol and Laura Spencer, and multi-event competitors Kamesha Marshall and Tiff Pedersen. Hume led Iowa in the 600 and 800 meters throughout her career. She ran on the school-record setting indoor and outdoor 1,600-meter relays, and she ends her eligibility ranked on Iowa’s top 10 list in six individual events and as part of 20 relays. Marshall holds the second-best pentathlon score in school history, and is ranked in the top 10 in throws. Pedersen is ranked second in the heptathlon.
Iowa has a talented group of nine newcomers joining the team. They are hurdler Erin Fogarty (Omaha, NE), jumper Renee White (Portmore, Jamaica) and distance runners Krista Anderson (Leeds, ND), Jennie Docherty (St. Paul, MN), Brittany Graham (Wheaton, IL), Rachel Hawks (Marshalltown, IA), Tiana O’Neill (Lake Forest, IL), Megan Pierce and Allison Yadron (Chatham, IL).
Here is an event-by-event look at the Hawkeyes:
With the return of Roach, Alexander, junior Lindsey McCalla and sophomore Ashley Granger, this looks to be one of Iowa’s most talented groups on paper. Roach holds the second-best 60-meter time (7.45) and fifth-best 100-meter time (11.60) in school history. Alexander led the team in five individual sprint events last season.
Tiffany Johnson returns after a phenomenal season in 2005. Her best 60-meter hurdle time (8.43) ranks second in school history, and she placed second at the Big Ten Championships in the 100-meter hurdles. She will be joined by redshirt freshman Kaitie Johnson and transfer Erin Fogarty.
Iowa will have more experience in the long distances. The hope is for this group to contribute one-third of the total team points at the Big Ten Championships. In the middle distances, Hume is gone. Sophomore Jordan Laney and freshman Tiana O’Neill will have to step up to replace her strong, consistent performances. Armstrong, Stanley and Marchand return in the 1,500 meters and mile. Armstrong placed fifth in the 1,500 last season at the Big Ten Championships, and will be one of the leading contenders for the title this season. Chapple may compete in the 1,500, mile, 3,000 and 5,000 meters this season. She holds the fourth-best 3,000 and sixth-best 5,000 in indoor school history. Sophomore Jessica Schmidt will compete in the 3,000-meter steeplechase for the second season, and the coaching staff hopes a year of experience will help her excel. The coaches are looking for an immediate impact from Anderson in the 5,000 and 10,000 meters. Donlon and sophomore Molly Esche will also run in the 5,000 and 10,000 meters.
All four legs of the team-leading 400-meter relay (Tiffany Johnson, Alexander, Granger and Roach) that qualified for the regional meet return. Iowa also returns half of the team-leading 1,600-meter relay (McCalla and Alexander) that placed third at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships and third at the regional meet. The Hawkeyes also return three of four runners from the team-leading distance medley relay (Stanley, McCalla, Armstrong).
Roach returns for her third season in the high jump with just as many Big Ten titles under her belt. She could make her mark in the Hawkeye record books this season, as no female track student-athlete has ever totaled more than four conference titles or won more than three in one event. She is also after the school’s outdoor high jump record and another trip to the NCAA Championships. Sophomore Jenni Elbert, who tied for fifth at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships in the high jump, will also compete.
Tiffany Johnson returns in the triple jump, while White will compete in both the long and triple jumps. White brings personal bests of 19-11 3/4 in the long jump and 40-0 3/4 in the triple jump, which would be school indoor records and near the top of the outdoor records list.
Junior Sarah Burgett returns for her third year in the pole vault. She owns the second-best vault in school history indoors (11-6 1/4) and the third-best outdoors (11-1 3/4).
Juniors Becca Franklin and Erin O’Hern, and sophomore Tammilee Kerr will have to contribute more to make up for Marshall’s absence. Franklin set the hammer throw school record of 181-11 last season. The previous record was 161-10. Both Franklin and O’Hern look to improve their hammer and weight throw performances, as well as contribute in the shot and discus. Kerr led the team in the javelin last season, and looks to improve in that category.
Marshall and Pedersen got the multi-events rolling again for Iowa, and Kerr looks to keep the Hawkeyes near the top of the conference here. She recorded 3,417 points in the pentathlon during the indoor season, which ranks fourth-best in school history, and led the team with 4,924 points in the heptathlon, which ranks third.
Head Coach Layne Anderson has seen improvements in his two years at the helm of the Hawkeye cross country program, and wants to see more in 2005. In 2002, before Anderson arrived, the team placed 11th at the Big Ten Championships with 333 points. In Anderson’s first season, the Hawkeyes still placed 11th at the conference meet, but dropped their point total to 241. In 2004, Iowa placed seventh and scored 170 points, which is its highest finish and lowest point total since 1993.
“We would love to use this momentum to move up into the top five at the Big Ten Championships and at the NCAA Midwest Regional,” said Anderson. “Once we can do that consistently, we’ll push our goals higher. We return most of our point-scorers from 2004 and hope that experience will help us reach our team goals.”
With Chapple, Armstrong, Stanley and Marchand returning, Anderson expects a talented and deep squad. Providing depth will be Donlon, junior Christine Kotarba, Esche and Schmidt. Newcomer Krista Anderson brings in enough talent to contend for one of the top spots. This could help close the placing gaps between point-scorers at larger meets that Iowa has experienced the last several years. It could also lead to adjustments in the top five or six positions as the season progresses.
“With our returnees and the addition of Krista, we should be as talented as any of the teams in the conference and the Midwest region on paper,” said Anderson. “We just have to be a better all-around team and perform at our best on those two race days. I think we’ve got the talent to have several all-Big Ten and all-region performers, as well as the Big Ten Freshman of the Year.”
The Hawkeyes will have a chance to showcase the Ashton Cross Country Course when they host the NCAA Midwest Regional on November 12. The co-ed meet will be the team and individual qualifying race for the NCAA Championships. In 2004, Iowa placed seventh among 26 teams.
“Our plan is to take more steps toward higher team finishes and more individual honors,” explained Anderson. “On paper, it looks like we can do it. We are also taking into consideration that we’ll have everyone except Nikki (Chapple) and Katie (Donlon) back for the 2006 season, and will have hopefully added more top-level recruits. That makes us very excited for the future of Iowa women’s cross country.”