Hawkeye Women Take 6,400-Meter Relay Title

April 26, 2012

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IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa women’s 4×1,600-meter relay won a Drake Relays championship Thursday with a homegrown Des Moines leadoff leg, two solid efforts in the middle, and a Minnesota native anchoring against — and foiling — her home-state Gophers

The Hawkeye foursome of Betsy Flood, Jackie Laesch, Megan Ranegar, and McKenzie Melander won the event in 19:16.73, 0.44 seconds in front of Big Ten Conference rival Minnesota. It is the first Drake Relays title for the Iowa women since placing first in the sprint medley a year ago.

“For this group (the 4×1,600 relay), we’ve been painfully second a number of times and it seems every year it comes down to Iowa and Minnesota battling,” UI head women’s coach Layne Anderson said. “It’s only appropriate this year the same thing held true and we had a young lady from Minnesota anchoring against Minnesota, and she ran a fantastic leg. It was a great way to start the weekend for us. We’re looking to have a great weekend, and we can’t start any better than this.”

Melander, from Apple Valley, Minn., was one of three seniors in the group. The leadoff was Flood, a graduate of West Des Moines Dowling High School. She had the Hawkeyes in the lead after four laps.

“I think the last time I ever won Drake in high school was my senior year in the (4×800-meter relay),” Flood said. “Jackie (Laesch) had her lucky socks on (Thursday), so I thought maybe today was going to be the lucky day because of those two things.”

This is the eighth year Flood has competed at the Drake Relays; she has run more on the Jim Duncan Track than any other surface in the country. The result Thursday was receiving another Drake Relays flag, given to the champions of each event.

“I see they’ve upgraded the flags,” Flood said. “Nice. We can hang these forever.”

For the Hawkeyes, the race unfolded at a modest pace and that played into their hands. Flood handed off to Laesch; Ranegar ran leg No. 3.

“We knew we could be close to the front every leg, so we might as well go out there and lead it,” Laesch said.

“And wait for a kick. That’s what we train for,” Ranegar added.

Melander took the baton a stride behind Minnesota anchor Laura Docherty, but soon wrestled control of the final mile.

“Three of us are seniors, so we’ve waited a long time for this,” Melander said. “I didn’t really know where (Docherty) was most of the race. I was trying to keep going along and finish the best I could.”

The Hawkeyes return to the track Friday at 9:32 a.m. (CT) with the preliminaries of the women’s university 4×100-meter relay. The Iowa men will follow at 9:48.