Oct. 12, 2010
Editor’s note: 24 Hawkeyes to Watch is a feature released Friday, Aug. 13, 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 2010-11 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 — An ideal senior season is icing on the cake; personal record after personal record and highlight after highlight. University of Iowa senior distance runner Amanda Hardesty has time to put frosting on an exceptional career, though the beginning to the 2010 cross country campaign hasn’t followed script.
“Shape-wise, I feel I’m better than I was last year at this time, so this isn’t exactly how I envisioned my senior year going so far,” Hardesty said. “You want your senior year to be `the year’ where you’re running the fastest you’ve ever run. It hasn’t been that so far for me, but I’m looking to the future and I’m optimistic and I still think things can happen and hopefully I have the bad parts out of the way.”
In the season-opener Sept. 3, Iowa won the Hawkeye Invitational and Hardesty was fourth overall with a 3-kilometer time of 10:35. Two weeks later the Hawkeyes repeated as team champion of the Iowa Invitational and Hardesty was eighth in 10:41. On Oct. 1, Iowa traveled to the Notre Dame Invitational, where the Hawkeyes finished a disappointing 13th and Hardesty placed 143rd with a 5K time of 18:34.
“I’m going to keep working hard and try to do my best and I’m hopeful that it will all come together,” Hardesty said. “One bad workout or one bad race is not going to determine the rest of my season. I have to wake up every day and start anew.”
Iowa’s finish at Notre Dame didn’t impress the regional pollsters as the Hawkeyes slipped from second in the Midwest to sixth on Oct. 4. A team gathering was called after the Hawkeyes cooled down at Notre Dame.
“Coach (Layne Anderson) had us sit down and it was a pleasant meeting,” Hardesty said. “It was OK. This isn’t it for us, we’re going to be fine. They would never do the `Wow, I’m mad at you because you ran a bad race;’ we have that sisterly-love thing.”
Amanda and her twin sister, Lauren, are the lone seniors on an experienced Hawkeye cross country roster: juniors Brooke Eilers, Betsy Flood and McKenzie Melander are also tested contributors. Twice Hardesty has competed at the NCAA national cross country championships. As a freshman, she covered the 6K course in 23:37 and the Hawkeyes placed 10th overall. As a sophomore, she sheared 31 seconds off her time and Iowa finished 24th.
“I had all these goals written down and then I learned how you shouldn’t base your goals off other people. Who doesn’t want to be All-American? That’s a goal you’re basing off others doing something or not doing something. I want to improve and feel like I worked hard and I’m happy with how I finished. If those things happen, that’s awesome. I would rather have girls I can run with who push me than be by myself running 10 seconds slower. It’s a hard balance between the two.”
“She’s gotten on board with the lifestyle,” Anderson said. “She is associated with people who make good choices. She’s making great choices, she has raised the level of her training and her fitness is improved. Her body has changed and she’s stronger, leaner, faster and she’s growing in confidence. If she can continue to maintain that confidence, then a great performance lies out there for her somewhere.”
Two of those “good people associates” Amanda lives with are Lauren and Flood. The three comprise one of the elite distance running groups in the land. All three were NCAA preliminary-round qualifiers in the 1,500-meter run last spring in Austin, Texas. All three check personal agendas at the door when they return home from practice or meets.
“There have been times when you don’t want to admit it, but it has been really hard and you’re struggling mentally,” Hardesty said. “It helps that we’re all open and can talk about it and be vulnerable and real. We all go through that. Sometimes you forget people are people and you think their life is perfect or you think everything is perfect for them, but that’s not reality. Lauren and Betsy both made it to (the NCAA finals in the 1,500) and I was so happy that I cried. That was hard for me because I was here taking a summer class and they were still training. I’m happy they made it, but of course you want to be there, too.”
Even with an abundance of high-caliber distance runners on the team, Hardesty does not let the accomplishments of others affect her.
“I had all these goals written down and then I learned how you shouldn’t base your goals off other people,” Hardesty said. “Who doesn’t want to be All-American? That’s a goal you’re basing off others doing something or not doing something. I want to improve and feel like I worked hard and I’m happy with how I finished. If those things happen, that’s awesome. I would rather have girls I can run with who push me than be by myself running 10 seconds slower. It’s a hard balance between the two.”
Hardesty is pursuing a major in sociology and she is eyeing graduate school and a master’s degree in school counseling. The University of Iowa has assisted her growth as an athlete, but Hardesty also emphasizes that the past four years she has also grown in Christian faith. Last summer she spent a week in London evangelizing to Muslims by standing on a street corner and distributing copies of the New Testament printed in Arabic.
“The world’s a big place and there are a lot of lessons to be learned out there,” Anderson said. “Amanda had an opportunity to do some mission-type work and it broadened her perspective and hopefully it was a great growth experience.”
“It was faith-building and I felt like for once I could catch a tiny glimpse of what Jesus must have felt,” Hardesty said. “One time someone told me if you know something so priceless as what we know about Jesus or God, why wouldn’t you want to tell everyone? Why would you want to keep that from someone? I’m growing in my faith and that trip added to that. It’s a completely different lens to see your life through when you’re living like that. It translates into everything…running, school, and relationships.”
Relationships are what made the 2009 cross country season memorable for Hardesty, even though it was the only time in her college career the Hawkeyes failed to advance to Terre Haute, Ind., for nationals. She cherished the season because of team chemistry.
“The night we found out we didn’t make it to nationals, we went to the Hamburg Inn and ate pie shakes,” Hardesty said. “It’s silly that it would stick out to me, because that was a tough time for us.”
Hardesty craves another outing with her team to fill up on the ice cream concoction. This time, she hopes, the pre-Thanksgiving feast will take place after the national championships Nov. 22 — a championship race that includes Hardesty and the Hawkeyes.