24 Hawkeyes to Watch: Kayla Beattie

Sept. 21, 2012

Worth Watching: 24 Hawkeyes to Watch video with K. Beattie

Editor’s note: 24 Hawkeyes to Watch is a feature released Monday, Aug. 6, 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 2012-13 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 — Kayla Beattie had her bags packed — two to be exact — before the first spring athletic practice as a high school freshman.

There was a dilemma for the minuscule and speedy Beattie: until she woke the next morning, she had no idea which bag she would take with her to Woodstock (Ill.) High School, located 60 miles northwest of Chicago.

One included shin guards and soccer spikes; the other had running shoes and running clothes. Would Beattie play soccer or would she run track? Since the seasons ran concurrently, she had to make one of the toughest decisions of her life.

“I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do,” Beattie said. “In the end I figured I would be more successful on the track. I’m glad I chose track.”

Because of that conclusion, Beattie, now a college sophomore, competes for Layne Anderson on the University of Iowa cross country and track teams. As a high school senior, Beattie competed in two national cross country meets, placing 12th in the Footlocker National Championships.

“From there, my confidence kept growing,” she said.

Her successes carried over to the track, where she became the fifth high school girl in Illinois state history to better 10 minutes in the two-mile run.

“Breaking records and history is cool, but to me it was more special because it was my goal the entire season,” Beattie said. “I had sub-10 written on my wall the entire year. The fact I set my mind to something and was able to accomplish it, that’s why it’s special.”

Beattie isn’t done jotting goals on her bedroom wall.

“I have a poster, and I write on it,” she said. “Then I spray paint over it so no one can see it, yet every night when I go to bed, I look at it, and that’s the first thing I see when I wake up.”

The current message is: “All-American, cross country.”

For Beattie that undertaking began Sept. 7 at the Bradley Open in Peoria, Ill. She bettered 101 other competitors, winning the three-mile race in 16:44; Beattie was named Big Ten Conference Runner of the Week. Ironically, when Beattie kicked off her memorable 2010-11 running season at Woodstock, she did so at the same Bradley Open, competing in the high school division.

As a college freshman, Beattie earned All-Midwest region honors by finishing 17th out of 189 in DeKalb, Ill. She was the top freshman finisher. Still, she had higher hopes when the season began.

“I had a lot to learn coming from racing in high school to racing in college,” Beattie said. “There are a lot of differences and the training is different, too. In high school I was used to doing three workouts a week and each workout was usually on the track; in college our workouts are more strength-based, and we work on building endurance, so that was a big change. The fact I went from racing twice a week to racing every other week was a big change as well, but it’s all for the better because collegiate races are a lot tougher than high school races. You can’t just show up with heavy legs and expect to do well. You have to be at your best each time.”

Beattie has grown physically from her freshman to sophomore seasons, but the most significant advance was emotional, Anderson said. He sees a more comfortable and outgoing Beattie, who has added to her lead-by-example approach to include more vocal communication.

Anderson knows he has something special in Beattie.

“She came to Iowa with incredible credentials,” Anderson said. “If she continues to progress and hit the checkmarks along the way, and has success and develops her talents, she certainly can compete for Big Ten titles, she can compete for All-America honors, and I think down the line somewhere, be one of the premiere all-around distance runners in Division I.”

Beattie wore a redshirt during track and field in the spring because of two stress fractures in her right foot. When that season rolls around in 2013, she expects to use her combination of speed and endurance in the 5K, and even move up to the 10K. Her mileage totals of 80-85 a week will continue to come in handy when the gun goes off on her collegiate track career.

She is fully healed from the setback with her foot. But coping with the injury, as well as the recovery process, made the first-year adjustment for Beattie more challenging.

“It was my first injury, and watching other people race when I knew I wanted to be racing with them, and people I had beaten last year or times I knew I could run, it was tough to watch,” Beattie said. “At the same point, it helped me grow. I learned more about myself during those three months where I couldn’t run and the months after that I couldn’t race than I would have if I was racing.”

Beattie graduated first in her high school class of 278. She is majoring in health and human physiology, and intends to pursue a career in pharmacy. There are three reasons she came to the UI:

1) “I liked how the University of Iowa has the hospital right on campus,” Beattie said. “There are so many different resources.”

2) “I came here for coach Anderson as well,” she said. “I felt like he would be a good coach for me and not just develop me as a runner, but as a person as well. He doesn’t just judge his athletes by the times they put out — they are important as people as well.”

3) “I like how it is close to home,” Beattie said. “I’m fairly close with my family, and the fact that I’m only four hours away, and since our races are mostly in the Midwest, my family gets to come watch me race and compete.”

The soft-spoken Beattie is anything but on a cross country course. Her quiet demeanor changes once the gun sounds.

“If we’re going to race a 6K, I want to race all 6,000 meters, I don’t want to show up and jog the first half and then turn it into a mile race at the end,” Beattie said. “I guess you could say I’m a tough racer. I want to go hard from the gun and see who can hang on.”

Beattie is scheduled to compete in the Toledo (Ohio) Bubble Buster event Friday, Sept. 21. She will have her bag packed — and it will be filled with running shoes.