Praska Shines in 800-meter Run

Feb. 10, 2010

Editor’s Note: The following article first appeared in the Feb. 8 edition of the Official Sports Report (OSR) for the University of Iowa. OSR is a daily e-newsletter exclusively about the Iowa Hawkeyes. Click HERE to learn more.

LINCOLN, Neb. — Bethany Praska is a sprinter on the University of Iowa women’s track and field team, and as most sprinters will tell you, any race beyond 600 meters is for the distance gang.

After a victorious performance by Praska in the 800-meter run at Saturday’s Frank Sevigne Husker Invitational, either the 800 is well within a sprinter’s range, or Praska has now evolved past races that require starting blocks.

“I ran the 800 one time last year outdoors and it was a 2:15,” said Praska, a junior from Longmont, Colo. “The other 800 I ran this year was 2:17, so this was a very good drop for me.”

Praska was in the lead pack from the starting gun, battling with Suzanne Higgins of Nebraska and Julie Stupp of Arizona for most of the first three laps. On the bell lap, Praska’s sprinter mentality took over and she raced ahead for the win in 2 minutes, 11.85 seconds, a personal record by nearly four seconds. Stupp was runner-up in 2:12.79 and Higgins was third in 2:12.81.

“The first few laps we kind of picked back and forth of who was leading and who was tagging along,” Praska said. “After getting into that fourth (and final) lap, I heard (former Hawkeye and now volunteer assistant coach) Renee White screaming to let (Higgins) do all the work. I was OK with her leading for a little bit. That last 200 I gave it all I had left.”

This is the first year that Praska has trained for the 800 and with just three half-mile competitions under her belt, she is still trying to perfect race strategy.

“This is a great step for her,” UI head coach Layne Anderson said. “A win against some good competition should boost her confidence.”

Anderson said that with increased volume and more strength-oriented training, Praska could eventually crank out 800 times of 2:06 or 2:07, which would put her among the elite in NCAA Division I.

“I’m focusing mainly on the first 600 because I’ve primarily been a 600 runner in the past,” Praska said. “I actually try to PR in the 600 split of the race, so I was slow coming through (Saturday) in 1:35. I want to cut a few seconds off that. After getting through the 600 it was just whatever I had left; fortunately I was able to wrap that up with a good kick.”

During her Hawkeye career, Praska has competed at distances ranging from 60 to 800 meters. Last indoor season, she had UI bests in the 400 (56.42), 600-yard (1:23.12) and 600-meters (1:31.33). She was sixth in the 600 meters at the Big Ten championships.

Praska was one of two Hawkeye champions at Nebraska on Feb. 6; the other was Nick Kuczwara, who won the men’s 1,000 run in 2:25.84. The 4×400 relay team of Tiffany Hendricks, Nicole Erickson, Kelsey Mims and Praska placed fourth in 3:47.82.

There was also a special women’s 800 run Saturday, won by Lysaira DelValle in 2:06.56. Praska’s time would have placed fifth overall — ahead of five of the “elite” competitors.

Praska will be back in action this weekend at the Iowa State Track and Field Classic in Ames. She will again compete in the open 800 and run a leg on the 4×400 relay.