New Year, Different Measure of Success

May 24, 2012

Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.

IOWA CITY, Iowa — This year simply feels different for University of Iowa sophomore Ashley Liverpool. She wasn’t able to duplicate the Big Ten Championship and school record performances she enjoyed as a freshman in 2011, but heading into today’s NCAA Championships in Austin, Texas, she says that different means better.

“Last year I started off really well but then kind of declined toward the end of the season,” said Liverpool, an NCAA qualifier in the 400 meters and 1,600-meter relay. “This year it feels like I keep getting better every meet, so it feels a lot different. I’m coming into nationals seeded sixth in the 400 meters, so there’s reason to feel better about the season.”

Liverpool opened the 2011 outdoor season with a fourth place finish in the 400 meters at the LSU Invitational. Her 53.87 performance immediately placed her fifth among Iowa’s all-time top performers, but it also proved to be the peak of her freshman campaign. She was unable to break the 54-second barrier in any of the five subsequent meets and settled for a seventh place finish at the Big Ten Championships with a mark of 55.00. She qualified for nationals based on her PR from the season opener, but she was unable to advance past the preliminary round, effectively ending her rookie season.

“Last year I was really nervous because I had never been to anything like that,” said Liverpool. “We had big meets in high school, but nothing that was nearly as competitive. I think having that experience will help me with the nerves this weekend.”

Iowa assistant coach Clive Roberts says Liverpool’s maturity has also played a role in her preparation each week.

“Coming in as a freshmen and never having competed at this level can be alarming,” said Roberts. “You have to replicate your training every week, and she didn’t really understand how to do that. But this year when she came back we got her really fit, and I believe fitness will lead to confidence.”

Roberts said they altered her training from a year ago. Liverpool didn’t once compete in the 200 meters last season, but this year she has entered the event three times and owns the 10th fastest 200 meter time in school history.

“Ashley’s an athlete that will always rely on her fitness and not rely on her speed. She’s a sit and kick kind of girl but sometimes she’d put herself out of races because of that,” said Roberts. “This year we got some 200s out of her, and she has gained some confidence. We’re trying to get her more engaged in the race.”

The adjustment has led to three personal-records in as many tries, including a 52.47 runner-up finish in the Big Ten Championships that shaved more 2.5 seconds off last year’s conference performance. Her new PR ranks No. 3 in school history, trailing only 2006 NCAA champion Kineke Alexander and 2004 All-American Shellene Williams.

It’s also fast enough to earn the No. 6 seed in today’s preliminary round. The top 48 performers advanced to the NCAA West Regional and the top 12 move on to the NCAA final site in Des Moines, Iowa, on May 24-26.

Liverpool is one of 10 Hawkeye athletes who could potentially advance to Des Moines in multiple events. She’ll run the 400 meters tonight at 7:45 p.m. (CT) and the 1,600-meter relay Saturday at 9:45 p.m.

“I obviously wanted to advance past regionals last year, but I just wasn’t as confident as I am now,” said Liverpool. “I’m coming into the 400 ranked a lot higher with a better time.

“I also feel like we have a great shot in the relay. We’re right there. We’re seeded 13th, and we need to finish in the top 12, so as long as we put together a good heat, and run our best, I think we can put together a really good showing.”