Nov. 24, 2008
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TERRE HAUTE, Ind. — University of Iowa senior Racheal Marchand saved her best for last. A cross country All-American in 2006, Marchand put an exclamation point on an already stellar career by finishing fifth overall at the NCAA national championships Monday at LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course.
Marchand, the Midwest Regional Runner of the Year, posted a career personal best at nationals, covering the 6-kilometer course in 19-minutes, 55-seconds.
“I wanted this to be my best race of the season,” Marchand said. “This was my last race so I was going to lay it all out there and give it my all.”
It is the third All-American honor for Marchand, who was 30th at the 2006 cross country championships with a time of 21:18.1. She became a track All-American by placing eighth in the 10,000-meter run last spring with a time of 34:05.87. Marchand has exhausted her outdoor track eligibility and could have one season of indoor track remaining, but she has said she will pass on that final season and graduate. That made Monday’s effort a memorable swan song.
“I am kind of sad,” Marchand said. “I was looking up when I was about 200 meters from the finish line and I thought to myself, `This is it, the last 200 meters of my career.’ I’m sad about that. I feel like I still have a lot to give, but you have to give it up sometime.”
The leadership from Marchand helped the Hawkeyes complete a fairy tale season as the 24th best women’s cross country team in Division I. It is not only the third consecutive season Iowa has qualified for nationals (the Hawkeyes were 10th in 2007), but out of the seven Iowa runners Monday, only Marchand had ever competed at the Division I championships.
“We were packed up in a good spot,” UI head coach Layne Anderson said. “We’ve had our ups and downs this season, but we fought and did what we could. A lot of girls will be back next year, so hopefully this experience will serve them well in the future.”
“I am kind of sad. I was looking up when I was about 200 meters from the finish line and I thought to myself, `This is it, the last 200 meters of my career.’ I’m sad about that. I feel like I still have a lot to give, but you have to give it up sometime.”
Anderson was one of the first to greet the newest Hawkeye All-American at the finish chute on a chilly and windy afternoon. The proud coach knew Marchand had the ability to be a top 10 performer, even though she was ill with a bad cold for three days last week.
“I was worried that her tank was going to be empty,” Anderson said. “This is a great field with some fantastic talent out there. Racheal stayed patient and let the pack dwindle down and dwindle down while she stayed strong. This doesn’t surprise me based on her season — her conference meet and her regional meet. I still felt she had her best race in there. It would be hard to top this one.”
As a sophomore in 2005, Marchand was named all-region after placing 18th. She was 22nd in the Big Ten Conference championships. As a junior in 2006, she was second team all-Big Ten (12th), repeated as an all-region selection (ninth) and earned her first All-American recognition (30th). This fall Marchand was regional champion, third in conference (first team) and fifth at nationals.
“I’m still kind of in shock how I finished,” Marchand said. “I wasn’t going for fifth, I was going for top 15. This year was really a breakthrough year with my training. Everything played out and I couldn’t have had a better year.”
The exceptional season turned in by Marchand adds to a Hawkeye mystique that has grown of late. Since Anderson became head coach in 2003, Iowa has crowned five cross country All-Americans as well as the last three regional runners of the year.
“That’s the ultimate goal in collegiate distance running if you’re talented and become consistently better,” Anderson said. “Our sport is littered with kids who show some brilliance and then you don’t see them again. Racheal has stayed steady and gotten literally better with every race. If she had another year, it would be scary to think what she could do.”
On the men’s side, Hawkeye junior Jesse Luciano finished three positions and 4.1 seconds from an All-American run. The lone representative for the Iowa men, Luciano was 43rd and covered the 10K course with a career-best time of 30:17.8. His clocking ranks second in school history, just seven seconds off the record established six years ago by Micah VanDenend.
“Jesse had a terrific performance,” UI head men’s coach Larry Wieczorek said. “He felt like he laid it all out and ran the best race of his career. He beat a lot of outstanding competitors.”