Nationally-Ranked Hawkeyes Ready for Iowa Open

Aug. 30, 2011

The University of Iowa men’s and women’s cross country teams will open the 2011 season Friday at the Iowa Open. The Hawkeyes will compete against Illinois State at the Ashton Cross Country Course. The women’s 4K event will begin at 6 p.m. before the men’s 6K at 6:30 p.m.

Both the men’s and women’s cross country teams defeated the Illinois State and UMKC to win the 2010 Hawkeye Invitational. Betsy Flood finished second in the women’s 3K event with a time of 10:24, while Brooke Eilers finished third with a time of 10:27. McKenzie Melander also finished among the top 10, taking sixth place with a time of 19:31. Jeff Thode was the top finisher in the men’s 6K event. He took third place with a time of 19:04. Chase Kadlec finished sixth with a time of 19:31.

The men’s cross country team is seeking to improve upon their previous seasons. “We are looking forward to getting back to the NCAA qualifying team we were back in 2006, and we have some great athletes to start re-building towards that this season,” said men’s head coach Larry Wieczorek. Returning this season for the Hawkeyes is the lone senior Chase Kadlec, the All-American junior Jeff Thode. “When you talk about frontrunners you have to talk about the All-American Jeff Thode.” Thode was the top finisher for the Hawkeyes in each race last season. Thode also placed 30th out of 246 at the NCAA Championships. Joining the team this year are freshmen Ben Witt and Kevin Lewis, two of the state’s top athletes last year.

The women’s cross country team is excited to start a new season under ninth year head coach Layne Anderson. In fact, the Hawkeyes are ranked 28th in the nation to start the season. “It is certainly a positive start to the season to begin ranked inside the top 30. We now have an opportunity to complete what we believe could be one of the better seasons in the history of the program,” Anderson said. “It is our best team on paper in my eight plus year’s at Iowa.” Although the team lost some key talent in both Lauren and Amanda Hardesty, they do return some key members. Those members include Betsy Flood, Brooke Eilers, Nicole Benson, McKenzie Melander, Megan Ranegar, Kelsey Hart, Danielle Berndt, and Kathern Rehn. Joining them this season is freshman Kayla Beattie. “Beattie was one of the top high school runners in the country last year,” Anderson said. Mareike Schrulle from Germany also joins the team.

Both the men’s and women’s cross country teams are ranked in the preseason USTFCCCA Regional rankings. The Hawkeye men’s team is ranked seventh in the Midwest Region and the women’s team is ranked third. Nationally, the women’s team is ranked 28th overall. The Illinois State women, a competitor in Friday’s Iowa Open, is ranked 11th in the region.

Iowa’s top three finishers from the 2010 NCAA Midwest Regional all return in 2011. Senior Betsy Flood, senior McKenzie Melander, and sophomore Megan Ranegar finished 9th, 27th and 43rd, respectively, at last year’s national meet.

Junior Jeff Thode has been Iowa’s top finisher in 11-of-12 career races, including the last seven meets. The Schaumburg, Ill. native, earned All-America honors last season, and has been the Hawkeye’s top finisher in each of the last two NCAA Midwest Regionals.