2004-05 Cross Country and Track Season Preview

Aug. 26, 2004

The University of Iowa women’s track team will kick off the 2005 season with a renewed determination for winning. The Hawkeyes displayed signs of a program on the rise during the 2004 season and are eager for another shot at a Big Ten title. Iowa returns 15 letterwinners from the 2004 track squad, while the cross country team returns four letterwinners off its 2003 roster.

“Last year we had a pretty good season. I think this year we are looking to have an even better season,” said Head Track Coach James Grant. “We are pretty balanced between distance, sprints and hurdles, but are a little thin in the throwing events. We are striving to be much more competitive in that area. For us to be an annual Big Ten contender, we will have to have balance in all event areas.”

The Hawkeyes will look to improve upon their third-place finish and school-record setting point total (89) from a year ago at the Big Ten Indoor Championships in Iowa City. It was Iowa’s highest finish, indoor or outdoor, during Grant’s eight years as head coach.

“We did extremely well during the indoor season. I was somewhat disappointed with the outdoor portion of our schedule. We’re working to improve our outdoor performances, while trying to maintain or better our indoor season,” said Grant.

The Hawkeyes will continue to build around Big Ten champions Shellene Williams and Peaches Roach. Williams, who will only compete indoors, became Iowa’s first all-American since Wynsome Cole in 1997, earning the honors in the outdoor 400 meters last season. The Hawkeye senior set school records in that event and the indoor and outdoor 200 meters. Roach, a two-time Big Ten high jump champion and 2004 Big Ten Outdoor Freshman of the Year, returns for her sophomore season. She also led the team in the 60 and 100 meters last year.

Senior Shellene Williams

Sophomores Nikki Chapple and Shannon Stanley also return for a second season with the Hawkeyes. Both made immediate impacts on the cross country course and in the middle distance and distance events in track last year. Chapple qualified for the NCAA Indoor Championships in the 3,000 and 5,000 meters, and the NCAA Outdoor Championships in the 10,000 meters. She led the team at three cross country meets, including a 15th-place finish at the Big Ten Championships, and posted the team’s best 5,000 and 6,000 meters of the season. Stanley was one of four Hawkeyes and the only freshman to compete in all six cross country meets in 2003. She also ran on Iowa’s distance medley relay that qualified for the 2004 NCAA indoor meet.

The Hawkeyes will feel the losses of senior distance runners Sarah Arens and Michelle Lahann, pole vaulter Jessie Strand and javelin thrower Alana Redfern. The quartet hold four school and two facility records, and qualified for the NCAA Championships a combined 10 times. According to Grant, Iowa’s talented class of newcomers has the potential to make an immediate impact on the program.

“This past year, our emphasis was on recruiting. We felt like we had a lot of holes to plug as far as the distance events were concerned,” said said Head Cross Country and Assistant Track Coach Layne Anderson. “We wanted to get Division I, Big Ten level prospects who could contribute right away. We wanted student-athletes that could walk in from day one and run with the best. We’ve recruited a number of young ladies who fit that mold.”

Fifteen newcomers are on this year’s roster. They are sprinters Kineke Alexander (St. Vincent and the Grenadines), Ashley Granger (Waterloo, IA) and Aditya Jones (Fairfield, IA), sprinters and jumpers Abbie Bagenstos (Holstein, IA) and Lacy Brunette (Clive, IA), hurdler Kaitie Johnson (Lockport, NY), distance runners Meghan Armstrong (Tualatin, OR), Lisa Bonistalli (Naperville, IL), Melissa Clement (Marshalltown, IA), Molly Esche (Waukesha, WI), Racheal Marchand (Valparaiso, IN), Laura Pearson (Schaumburg, IL) and Jessica Schmidt (Hilliard, OH), high jumper Jenni Elbert (Laurens, IA) and multi-event competitor Tammilee Kerr (Portmore, St. Catherine).

Here is an event-by-event look at the 2004-05 team:

Senior Aisha Hume

Williams, Roach, senior Aisha Hume and sophomore Lindsey McCalla return. Williams will try to defend her conference indoor 400-meter title, as well as make a return trip to the NCAA Championships. Roach holds the second-fastest 60-meter time in school history. Hume ranks fourth in the 600 meters and sixth in the 400 meters on Iowa’s all-time best performers list, and has set the Iowa State Classic meet record in the 600 yards the last two seasons. McCalla, Williams, and Hume ran on the school-record setting 1,600-meter relay during the 2004 indoor season, while Williams and Hume ran on the Big Ten Champion and school-record setting 1,600 meter relay during the 2003 outdoor season.

The coaching staff also added depth with newcomers Kineke Alexander, Abbie Bagenstos, Lacy Brunette, Ashley Granger, Kaitie Johnson and Aditya Jones. The coaching staff is very excited about Alexander, seeing her as a potential replacement for Williams in the 400 meters and relays once the senior’s eligibility is finished. Granger is a three-time state runner-up in the 100 meters, running on state champion 400-meter and sprint medley relays. The coaching staff hopes to add the 200 and 400 meters to her racing repertoire. Johnson set high school records in the 100, 200 and 400 meters.

“The only person we will lose with great significance in the sprints during the outdoor season is Shellene. Hopefully the ladies we brought in will be more than adequate replacements,” said Grant.

Seniors Tiff Pedersen and Latoya Stiffend, juniors Katie Herrmann and Keely Huber and sophomore Tiffany Johnson return in the hurdles. Newcomer Kaitie Johnson will provide depth here. Tiffany Johnson led the team in the 60-meter hurdles, while Pedersen led the Hawkeyes in the 100-meter event and Herrmann posted the best 400-meter hurdles time last season. Huber returns from a redshirt season.

Middle Distance/Distance
The middle distance corps will feel the loss of Lahann, but the return of Stanley, Hume, senior Michelle Sokol, sophomore Monica Mims and redshirt freshman Jordan Laney and Chloe Millward will help to fill the void.

Sophomore Nikki Chapple

Chapple, and senior Georgia Millward, juniors Katie Donlon and Jenni Capista and sophomores Christine Kotarba, Ashley Merry are a very talented group and hope to make up for the loss of Arens in the distance events. Newcomers Meghan Armstrong, Lisa Bonistalli, Melissa Clement, Molly Esche, Rachael Marchand, Laura Pearson and Jessica Schmidt will contribute wherever needed.

In her first season with the Hawkeyes, Chapple led the team in the indoor 3,000 and 5,000 meters, and outdoor 10,000 meters. Georgia Millward led the team in the 3,000 meters in 2004, and has been a mainstay on the track and cross country rosters her entire career. Donlon returns from sitting out the 2004 track season with a knee injury.

“Nikki is a complete runner,” said Anderson. “She can do it all and she’s not limited to one specific event or distance. I feel that if she can put together an entire year and stay healthy, she is potentially one of the premier distance runners in the nation. Donlan is someone that is coming back extremely hungry and anxious to resume her career. She was getting to the point were she was ready to break through before the knee injury.”

Kotarba and Capista competed in the 1,500 and 5,000 meters last outdoor season, and the coaching staff feels Merry is in position to take her running to the next stage. Armstrong is a three-time state champion in both the 1,500 and 3,000 meters. She was also the state cross country runner-up for three years. Marchand was a Footlocker all-American, placing 10th at the national cross country championships her senior year. Bonistalli was the Illinois state runner up in cross country last fall.

“Any of those athletes is more than capable of competing at this level. I’m excited to see them in action this fall and to see how much they’ve improved,” said Anderson.

Sophomore Peaches Roach

2004 Big Ten Outdoor Freshman of the Year and two-time Big Ten Champion Peaches Roach is back for her second season at Iowa. Roach’s best mark of 5-11 1/4 is less than one inch off the school record of 6-0, set in 1983 by Mary Mol. Newcomer Jenni Elbert brings a personal-best high jump of 5-9 to the team, giving the Hawkeyes strong depth in this event. Elbert won a Drake Relays and two state high jump titles, never placing lower than fourth in that event at the state meet.

Pedersen led the Hawkeyes in the long jump last season, while Tiffany Johnson posted the best triple jump marks. Newcomers Abbie Bagenstos and Lacy Brunnette will provide depth.

With the loss of Redfern, senior Kamesha Marshall and sophomores Erin O’Hern and Becca Franklin will lead the Hawkeyes in the throws. Marshall led the team in the indoor shot put last season, while O’Hern paced the Hawkeyes in the discus and weight throw and Franklin posted the best hammer throw mark. Newcomer Tammilee Kerr, a two-time junior national javelin champion, will provide immediate depth in these events.

Pole Vault
Strand was a major point scorer for the Hawkeyes and she will be missed. Sophomore Sarah Burgett will replace her after a strong 2003 season. The coaching staff feels Burgett has the potential to jump in the 12-foot range.

Senior Tiff Pedersen

The Hawkeyes return a strong nucleus of athletes in the multi-events. Pedersen placed third in the heptathlon at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships and fifth in the pentathlon at the conference indoor meet. She is ranked second in both events on Iowa’s all-time best performers list, and was just 40 points shy of qualifying for nationals in the heptathlon last season. Marshall and sophomore Angie Hensel also return in the multi-events, while Kerr is a talented newcomer.

Cross Country
Head Coach Layne Anderson returns for his second year with the Hawkeyes. The squad fought through adversity, and returns a talented core with the potential to challenge the conference’s best. Iowa will host the 2004 Big Ten Cross Country Championships at the newly-dedicated Bill and James Ashton Course, giving the team a great opportunity to showcase their talents and facility.

Senior Katie Donlon

“I am cautiously optimistic going into the fall,” explained Anderson. “We added a great and talented group of freshmen, and our returning members bring solid leadership. Overall, we have some pretty talented athletes who will help lead this program.”

The loss of all-regional runner Sarah Arens will be felt, but there is enough returning experience and talent to make it less painful. Chapple is the top returnee, and holds the 6,000-meter school record. Stanley and Capista are the two returnees who competed in all six races last season. Donlon, Kotarba, Merry and Sokol all had strong seasons last year and look to improve even more this year. Newcomers Armstrong, Esche, Marchand, Bonistalli, Pearson and Schmidt will add strength and depth to an already impressive group of runners.

“We could have a different person leading our program every race,” said Anderson. “I think Nikki is a little bit ahead on paper, but everyone else is talented and competitive enough to challenge for the top spot. Come October it will be exciting to see where we are as a team and where we stack up against the rest of the Big Ten. I believe we are continuing to move toward our ultimate goal, which is to win the Big Ten title and make it to nationals.”