24: All-American Marchand closing her career

Aug. 7, 2008

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Editor’s note: 24 Hawkeyes to Watch is a feature released Thursday, Aug. 7, highlighting one athlete from each of the 24 intercollegiate sports offered by the University of Iowa. More than 700 talented student-athletes are currently busy preparing for the 2008-09 athletics year at the UI. Hawkeyesports.com will introduce you to 24 Hawkeyes who, for one reason or another, are poised to play a prominent role in the intercollegiate athletics program at the UI in the coming year.

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Racheal Marchand had a choice to make.

Well into the 25-lap 10,000-meter run final at the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field national championships June 12 in Des Moines, the lead pack began inching away from her on a calm, hot, humid Iowa evening. It was the final collegiate track competition for Marchand and her goal of becoming an All-American hinged on her impending reaction.

“Racheal fell off the pace a little and she had to make a decision whether she was going to stay tough or bail out,” UI head coach Layne Anderson said. “I didn’t doubt that Racheal was going to fight to the end.”

Marchand kicked the final 800 meters in 2:30.97 and finished eighth overall with a career-best time of 34:05.87. By placing eighth, Marchand also earned her first All-American honor in track to complement one she earned in cross country in 2006 when she was 30th at the NCAA championships.

For Marchand, it was a fitting and exciting conclusion to her track career. Since she did not compete in cross country last fall, Marchand has one season of eligibility remaining in that sport. She will open the 2008 season as one of the elite runners in the Big Ten Conference and the nation.

“Ending on a good note in track always keeps you motivated to succeed during the next season,” Marchand said. “I’m hoping that ending on a good note carries over into cross country.”

It will be a rebuilding year for the Hawkeyes, who last season finished 10th in the nation but graduated All-Americans Diane Nukuri (fourth) and Meghan Armstrong (16th), as well as Molly Esche and Jessica Schmidt. Suddenly, Marchand will assume a bulk of the leadership responsibilities.

“I think I’m going to have to up my ante on both the training and leadership roles,” Marchand said. “It’s going to be a different season. Basically the entire class I came in with is going to be gone and it’s going to be an adjustment training with the younger girls.”

Anderson categorizes Marchand as a leader by performance rather than through words.

“Racheal’s not a real rah-rah type of person,” Anderson said. “We’re leaning on her to lead by running hard and performing. She’s going to run through adversity and run through bad weather. She is going to run through whatever obstacles she has to.”

Marchand was a high school All-American at Valparaiso, Ind., where she placed 10th at the Footlocker National Cross Country meet her senior year. Twin sisters Amanda and Lauren Hardesty — now Hawkeye sophomores — were freshmen when Marchand was a senior at the same Valparaiso High School.

“I was their host when they came for a visit to the University of Iowa,” Marchand said. “They saw the success I’ve had here and they thought this would be a good place for them to succeed as well.”

“Racheal’s not a real rah-rah type of person. We’re leaning on her to lead by running hard and performing. She’s going to run through adversity and run through bad weather. She is going to run through whatever obstacles she has to.”
UI head coach
Layne Anderson

The Valparaiso Trio will be a crucial force in leading Iowa toward its goals this fall. As far as Marchand is concerned, the primary objective is Nov. 24 in Terre Haute, Ind.

“Our first priority is to get to nationals as a team” she said. “We’ve had success there in the past and our No. 1 goal should be a return to the national meet.”

Marchand is majoring in American studies, but said she is likely to pursue a career in orthopedic sales when she graduates. She recently completed a job shadowing experience at Biomet Midwest in her hometown. Although Marchand would be eligible for another season of indoor track, she is leaning toward entering the work force once a diploma is in hand.

As a sophomore in 2005, Marchand earned all-region recognition by placing 18th in the 6-kilometer race with a time of 21:38. As a junior in 2006 she was second team all-Big Ten after finishing 12th in the conference championship in 21:05. She duplicated her all-region heroics by placing ninth in 21:07 and became an All-American after placing 30th at the national championships in 21:18. Marchand was a two-time all-region track runner in the 5K and qualified for the national championships as a junior. She is a member of the school-record 4×1,600-meter relay team.

“I’m more of a long distance runner, but I like the 6-kilometer distance in cross country because it’s over hills and grass,” Marchand said. “I think cross country plays into my strengths. It’s more strength training than track.”

Arriving in Iowa City from Valparaiso was anything but a simple and direct path for Marchand. Originally she signed with the University of Colorado, but realized that it would be extremely difficult to return home or for family to watch her compete. Marchand re-opened her college search and considered Baylor, Wisconsin and Florida State when Anderson called and asked her to visit the University of Iowa.

“My mom and I came to visit and the very next day I decided to come here because it is close to home and Coach Anderson knows what he’s doing,” Marchand said. “I didn’t know anyone when I came here, but I really liked the campus and the academics here are very good. Coach Anderson is a friendly guy who shoots it straight how he’s going to train you and what he’s working toward.”

The span between selecting a college and the first day of cross country practice was a mere three weeks for Marchand. She was part of the impressive 2004 Hawkeye cross country/track & field recruiting class that also included Kineke Alexander, Armstrong, Esche, Tammilee Kerr and Schmidt. Nukuri began attending Iowa in the fall of 2006.

“For the first time in her career, Racheal comes into a season as our leader and our top runner on paper,” Anderson said.

Marchand took two weeks off from training after the NCAA outdoor track nationals. Depending on how her body holds up to another season of competition, she might continue her running career after Iowa with an eye on the 2012 Olympics as a marathoner. But next up is the collegiate cross country season, which features back-to-back meets on the Ashton Cross Country Course — Friday, Aug. 29, with the Hawkeye Invitational and Friday, Sept. 12, with the Iowa Invitational.

“It’s going to be emotional because it will be my final cross country races,” Marchand said. “It will be emotional knowing it will be the last time I step on the course at Iowa.”