Oct. 23, 2008
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 — When University of Iowa sophomore Karessa Farley steps to the starting line, she expects to do more than win.
“I think I can dominate,” the sprinter-hurdler from Bridgetown, Barbados, said.
It typically takes the first season of competition to get most freshmen tracksters acclimated to the collegiate level. For Farley, that initial year of instruction was cut short by what she called the second of back-to-back injuries — a stress fracture of her left femur. Because of the injury, she was forced to redshirt during the outdoor season.
“I jumped right into a weight program when I got here and I think my body went into shock,” Farley explained. “I had a stress fracture, but this year I’m really working on keeping fit and healthy.”
Farley is the latest in a long line of Caribbean sprinters who have dotted the Hawkeye roster in recent years. In Farley’s case, she was recruited by former assistant coach Victor Houston, a fellow Barbadian, who is now coaching at Alabama.
“Coach Houston was from Barbados and he was very supportive,” Farley said. “He came down to see me a lot of different times when I was running high school track. I felt comfortable coming here with the other Caribbean athletes and a Caribbean coach.”
Other recent Hawkeye Caribbean stars include Kineke Alexander (eight-time All-American from St. Vincent and the Grenadines), Tammilee Kerr (2008 All-American from Jamaica), Peaches Roach (four-time All-American from Jamaica) and Renee White, currently one of the top sprinter-jumpers from Jamaica.
Those athletes provided Farley with a comfort zone once she arrived in Iowa City. Barbados native Obadele Thompson provided Farley with motivation.
“I looked up to past athletes from my home country,” Farley said. “People like Obadele Thompson. When I saw him win a bronze medal (in the 100-meter dash) at the Sydney Olympics, it let me know that it can be done. I can go all the way.”
“We see Karessa as Big Ten championship material. We believe she has the talent to compete at the Big Ten level and down the road we feel like she’s certainly someone who can get to the NCAA meet and eventually be an All-American at that level.”
UI head coach
In comparison to others in Barbados, Farley is becoming somewhat of a rarity. More and more youngsters who begin competing in track and field seemingly vanish from the sport, she said, because the nation lacks a strong support system which exists in other places like the United States.
“The public doesn’t support track as much in Barbados,” she said. “The athletes are not motivated to come up and run. They’ll come out at young ages, but there’s nothing to keep them there. That’s a problem. It makes me feel more motivated (attending college in the United States) knowing that there are people in the stands coming to watch and support. It makes me want to run.”
Farley said she is fully-healed and is eager to get back on the track. She gained confidence last season and is chomping at the bit for more. Farley placed eighth in the 60-meter hurdles at the 2008 Big Ten Indoor Championships.
“We see Karessa as Big Ten championship material,” UI head coach Layne Anderson said. “We believe she has the talent to compete at the Big Ten level and down the road we feel like she’s certainly someone who can get to the NCAA meet and eventually be an All-American at that level.”
Farley echoed the goals of her coach.
“I went into the indoor season a little bit scared, but now I think I can dominate in the Big Ten,” she said. “My confidence has improved a lot after my first race when I won my session at Notre Dame. I knew I wasn’t 100 percent healthy and I was still able to perform almost well enough to provisionally qualify for the NCAAs, so my confidence was boosted a lot.”
On Feb. 9, 2008, Farley won the fifth heat of the 60-meter hurdles at the Meyo Invitational at Notre Dame, Ind., in 8.59-seconds. She shaved 0.13-seconds to finish fifth in the finals with a career-best 8.46. Once outside and at a distance of 100 meters, Farley expects to climb even higher on the final results sheet.
“The longer hurdle races benefit me because of have a really good finish,” she said.
Last season the Hawkeyes placed fifth at the Big Ten indoor championships with 60 points and two champions. Iowa shared sixth place with Wisconsin (73 points, two champions) during the outdoor league championships. All five of the Hawkeye track and field All-Americans from a year ago — Alexander (indoor and outdoor), Kerr (outdoor), Megan Armstrong (outdoor) and Racheal Marchand (outdoor) have graduated. Not before handing off to rising prodigies like Farley.
“I went into the indoor season a little bit scared, but now I think I can dominate in the Big Ten. My confidence has improved a lot after my first race when I won my session at Notre Dame. I knew I wasn’t 100 percent healthy and I was still able to perform almost well enough to provisionally qualify for the NCAAs, so my confidence was boosted a lot.”
“Our goal is to just score as many points as we can at Big Tens,” Farley said. “Now we have coaches in all the areas so there’s attention that athletes have at practice, whereas last year it was one coach for the women’s team who did pretty-much everything from the throws, hurdles, sprints, jumps. The athletes feel a lot more confident knowing we have that extra attention from the coaches.”
It was announced Sept. 8 that the UI men’s and women’s track and field programs would combine operations. While the two programs will maintain separate budgets (and head coaches), the teams will share administrative responsibilities and will coordinate competition schedules, thereby allowing them to coordinate recruiting, transportation and housing needs throughout the year.
When it’s time to compete, Farley refers to herself as a determined `little warrior’ who is quick to switch on a game face.
“I feel motivated to just get to the line,” she said. “I know that once I’m healthy that I will get my times. There is no reason why I shouldn’t be able to run 13.2 (in the 100 hurdles) outdoors.”
Those are big words coming from the timid Farley. So far in the fall, Anderson has seen a stronger, more mature hurdler.
“It can be overwhelming for anyone coming from Barbados to Iowa City, Iowa, and going from a high school program to a college program,” Anderson said. “Karessa’s better-equipped to handle anything that’s going to come her way this year. She’s putting in a productive fall and we expect that she will fulfill some of that potential.”
Now that the acclimation process to college and life in the Midwestern United States is complete, Farley now turns her aspirations to an injury-free remainder of her career.
“We’re happy to say she’s back and healthy,” Anderson said.
When her college days have passed, Farley, an athletic training major, doesn’t want to wander away from the competitive arena.
“I want to stay in the field of athletics and work with athletes,” she said. “After being hurt myself, I would just like to be there for the athletes to take care of them.”