Nov. 15, 2012
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — Becoming an elite NCAA Division I distance runner didn’t happen overnight for University of Iowa graduate student Mareike Schrulle. It just seems that way.
Schrulle, a native of Germany, will compete in the NCAA cross country championships Saturday in Louisville, Ky. It is a race that seemed like a long shot a year ago, but her commitment, along with an assist from head coach Layne Anderson and the UI sports medicine staff, made it possible.
Last season Schrulle showed glimpses of greatness in cross country and on the track, but a persistent ankle injury made consistency impossible. Instead of logging an adequate number of miles for a distance runner, Schrulle splashed in a pool and did other cross-training activities. When the ankle pain threatened her long-term quality of life, she turned to a UI orthopedic surgeon.
“This season I was able to run every day,” Schrulle said. “I was able to train a little harder, and was probably focusing a little more on the little things that I have to do: supplemental core and going in the training room every day. I was more focused, and being able to run was a big part of it.”
In 2011, a sore-ankled Schrulle finished 39th in the Big Ten Conference and 38th in the Midwest region; this season she was runner-up in the Big Ten and third at regionals.
“I was thankful and happy for those races,” Schrulle said. “I felt good racing, and I was happy to get second at Big Tens. It was a fun race, I was happy.”
Concentrating on fun is how Schrulle copes with pressure; the strategy is paying off.
“I need to focus on the fun part, I don’t have any expectations,” Schrulle said of competing at nationals. “I would be happy if I could have a good race again and finish around those girls I was competing against the last couple weeks. I don’t have a specific goal.”
“I need to focus on the fun part, I don’t have any expectations. I would be happy if I could have a good race again and finish around those girls I was competing against the last couple weeks. I don’t have a specific goal.”
NCAA cross country qualifier
The ankle injury followed Schrulle from Arnsburg, Germany, to the United States, but Anderson believed a healthy Schrulle would be able to regain the form that led her to victory at the 2008 German National Track Championships in the 3K.
“You knew the commitment was there, it was there every day,” Anderson said. “When you see somebody put their heart and soul into it, you want the success for them every bit as much as they want it for themself. The results over the last four to six weeks have been in line of what I knew she was capable of doing in terms of her credentials and her performances before coming to Iowa.”
“It makes me happy I can run so well and give something back to the team and to coach Anderson, who supported me every minute here in Iowa.”
Schrulle is the first Hawkeye to compete at the NCAA cross country championships since Betsy Flood in 2010. Three times from 2006-08, Iowa has had a top-seven finisher at nationals: Diane Nukuri, seventh in 2006 and fourth in 2007, and Racheal Marchand, fifth in 2008.
“I don’t think I can compare myself to those runners, they are far above me, they are my idols,” Schrulle said.
The NCAA Championship begins Nov. 17 at 11 a.m. (CT) from Tom Sawyer State Park . Schrulle knows the course is relatively flat, and she knows the pace will be brisk from the gun.
“I’m sure it is going to go out fast and then we will settle in,” Schrulle said. “That’s not bad for me. I feel more comfortable when races go out faster.”
Another plus about the race is that it will be streamed live on the Internet, meaning Michael and Beatrix Schrulle will be able to watch their daughter compete, something that has been a challenge since Mareike arrived in the United States.
“They’re excited because there is probably going to be something online,” Schrulle said. “I’m going to send them a tape from Big Tens; they’re excited to see how I’m running. They try to look at the results — that’s how they stay connected to the running side.”
Schrulle will graduate in May 2013, with a master’s degree in recreation/sport management. She has eligibility for both the indoor and outdoor track and field seasons, where she expects to concentrate on the 3K steeplechase, 5K and 10K.
“With Mareike, it is more about going out and executing, and having fun, and letting the results come as they will,” Anderson said.
Solid results for Schrulle are easier to obtain with two sturdy ankles.