Dec. 1, 2009
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THIS WEEK — The University of Iowa track and field squads will open the indoor season this weekend with the annual Intrasquad Meet on Sunday, Dec. 6 at 4:00 p.m. CT at the UI Recreation Building.
2009 SEASON PREVIEW — For women’s Head Coach Layne Anderson, this season is all about adding depth and filling the gaps for an already established foundation of talent. The sum of that talent should add up to a formidable team that Anderson would like to see become a fixture near the top of the Big Ten standings.
The women’s track and field team will have nearly 30 newcomers, many of which will be expected to contribute immediately. Anderson is looking for this recruiting class to fill in the gaps for events the Hawkeyes could not compete in last season.
“Last season, Renee White would be our only long and triple jumper, Mandy Chandler would be our only thrower, we wouldn’t have any javelin throwers or pole vaulters. We suffered because of our lack of depth in many areas. We basically forfeited certain events and potential points because we didn’t have anybody there. This season, I think we’ll be able to compete in a lot more events, which will give us more opportunities.”
The program will lose a seasoned veteran in Renee White, who had a stellar 2009 season to close her career at Iowa. White was the 2009 outdoor Big Ten Champion in the triple jump, setting a school and conference meet record on her last attempt (hitting 43-10 ¾). In her career at Iowa, White was a two-time Big Ten Champion in the triple jump and holds the school indoor and outdoor triple jump records. Other loses include thrower Mandy Chandler, and distance runners Racheal Marchand, Krista Anderson and Rachel Hawks.
Despite these losses, returning student-athletes are looking to build on numerous successes from last season. The women’s program is coming off a season where they qualified six student athletes for the NCAA Championships, with sophomore Betsy Flood and junior Karessa Farley automatically qualifying in the 1,500 meters (4th, 4:25.98) and 100-meter hurdles (3rd, 13.34), respectively. 2009 was a breakout season for other younger athletes as well. Sophomore McKenzie Melander, along with Flood, were a one-two punch in the distance events, finishing neck-and-neck for many of the top spots. Melander was a formidable foe, ending the season with a seventh place finish in the 1,500 meters at the NCAA Midwest Regional, earning all-region honors. Junior Hannah Roeder was consistently strong in the 3,000 meter steeplechase during the 2009 outdoor season, earning points at the Big Ten Championships with a time of 10:35.26 that ranks third all-time at Iowa. In the 2009 indoor season, junior Bethany Praska secured three spots in the Iowa record books, ranking third in the 600 meters (1:31.33), fourth in the 600 yards (1:23.12), and 10th in the 400 meters (56.42). Anderson is pleased with this solid group of returners and will look to them to set a good example for the newcomers. Despite numerous individual successes, the team scores did not meet expectations, with the team finishing 21st at the NCAA Midwest Regional, and 10th in the indoor and outdoor Big Ten Championships.
“Overall, I think we’re moving towards being a more complete team,” Anderson said. “We’re going to be an improved team and we will be more competitive in the Big Ten. It’s going to be a lot of work, but it will be a lot of fun as well.”
Men’s head coach Larry Wieczorek is looking for the momentum of a very positive 2009 finish to carry over into this season.
“I think last season’s NCAA Regional meet should be a sign of things to come. Everyone that weekend, had personal bests and there were some school records set. The thing that stands out about that meet is how many underclassmen stepped up that weekend. Having those solid athletes returning this year is very exciting.”
Among those returners will be senior Adam Hairston, whose mark of 1:48.53 in the 800 meters at the NCAA Championship prelims ranks third all-time at Iowa. Arguably more memorable though was Hairston’s emotional diving finish at the NCAA Midwest Regional that brought him to that point. Senior Ray Varner’s regional performance in the 400-meter hurdles (6th, 51.21) ranks fifth all-time at Iowa, and earned him all-region honors and an at-large big to the NCAA Championships. He eventually advanced to the NCAA semi-finals. Senior Paul Chaney, Jr., ran team-leading season best performances in the 100 (3rd, 10.59) and 200-meter dash (4th, 21.17) at Regionals. It capped a stellar season for the two-sport athlete. Chaney also anchored the 400-meter relay team that finished fifth (40.33) at the NCAA Midwest Regional.
So indeed, if Regionals does encapsulate what this season has in store, Wieczorek has reason to be optimistic.
The bevy of returning talent should compensate for the loss of some key athletes, including throwers A.J. Curtis, John Hickey and Mark Schaapveld, distance runners Eric MacTaggart and Andy Napier, and high jumper Ryan Kelly, who was a 2008 Big Ten Champion.
As a team the men finished ninth at the indoor Big Ten Championships, and saw Hickey become an all-American. In the outdoor season, they improved their Big Ten finish to seventh as seven athletes earned all-region honors. Last year’s consolidation of the men and women’s track and field programs was praised by both Anderson and Wieczorek.
“I feel we can give a lot more individualized attention to the athletes,” says Wieczorek. “We can cater more efficiently to everyone’s specialties and the athletes get the benefits of all the coach’s advice and experience.”
“It’s a definite benefit to the team and program as a whole,” says Anderson. “To have the assistance of all of the coaches makes our job easier and gives the athletes advantages they might not have in separate programs. We can focus our attention and provide very specific coaching.”
Anderson is in his seventh year as the head coach of the women’s cross country team and his second as head coach of the women’s track and field team. Wieczorek is in his 23rd season as the head coach of the men’s cross country team, and his 14th as the head coach of the track team. Anderson and Wieczorek are joined by Assistant Coaches Scott Cappos (throws, 14th year), Joey Woody (men’s short sprints/short hurdles/relays, women’s long sprints/hurdles, 4th year), Clive Roberts (women’s short sprints/hurdles/relays, horizontal jumps, 2nd year), and Christi Smith (multi-events, vertical jumps, 2nd year).
UP NEXT — The Hawkeyes will have to wait until the new year until their next competition, when the men’s team heads to the University of Illinois for the Illinois Dual Meet on Saturday, Jan. 9.
The men’s squad will return home the following week to join the women’s team for the Iowa Open on Saturday, Jan. 16, with events slated to start at 11:00 a.m. CT.