Aug 28, 2013
- Read the September issue of Hawk Talk Monthly
- Download your Iowa Hawkeye iPad/iPhone app!
- Download your Iowa Hawkeye Android app!
- Big Ten Network: Free Hawkeye Video
- 24 Hawkeyes to Watch
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 — It took a spousal nudge before Jennifer Brower-McNutt unpacked her running awards and unceremonially displayed them in the family’s exercise room.
“I’ve never been a real showy person, but I thought I could put them up in my own little exercise room,” Brower-McNutt said.
Brower-McNutt, a dominant distance runner for the University of Iowa from 1988-92, has to make room for at least one more award. On Aug. 30, she will be inducted into the National Iowa Varsity Club Athletics Hall of Fame.
“I remember sitting down with coach (Jerry) Hassard my freshman year before cross country started and going over goals,” Brower-McNutt said. “You’re so brave then and the sky’s the limit and I remember saying I wanted to be Big Ten champion, Drake Relays champion, and All-American. In the back of your head you believe you can do it, but you’re not really sure.”
Brower-McNutt accomplished all three goals. She won the 10,000-meter run at the 1992 Drake Relays (34:11.58) and Big Ten Conference Championships (34:29.61); she was a three-time All-American — fifth in the 10K in 1991 and third in 1992 at the NCAA Track & Field Championships, and 22nd at the 1991 NCAA Cross Country Championships, covering the 5K course in Tucson, Ariz., in 17:17.6.
Her accomplishments on the national level are most memorable.
“My junior year when I finished fifth at nationals was the first time I was All-American,” Brower-McNutt said. “That’s the meet I broke (Nan Doak Davis’s) school record in the 10,000; it stands out because it was a little unexpected. I dropped my time (to 33:23.38), and it was one of those perfect races when you were in a zone. That catapulted me into my senior year. Winning the Drake Relays 10,000 my senior year was another highlight.”
Brower-McNutt excelled in the classroom as well as a two-time Academic All-American; she received an NCAA postgraduate scholarship.
“I remember sitting down with coach (Jerry) Hassard my freshman year before cross country started and going over goals. You’re so brave then and the sky’s the limit and I remember saying I wanted to be Big Ten champion, Drake Relays champion, and All-American. In the back of your head you believe you can do it, but you’re not really sure.”
UI cross country/track standout
Brower-McNutt enjoyed success as a junior high runner for St. Ansgar in northern Iowa, competing in the 800-meter run — the longest distance offered to girls at the time. Although the Saints did not have a high school cross country program, Brower-McNutt was encouraged by several coaches in the school to participate in meets. As the only runner on the team, Brower-McNutt put St. Ansgar on the distance running map by becoming all-state four times in cross country: seventh as a freshman, second as a sophomore, first as a junior, and second as a senior. She was a two-time track champion in the 3,000-meter run.
“I have always been fine at training on my own, so putting in the miles and doing the workouts alone wasn’t an issue,” Brower-McNutt said. “The thing I missed most was not having a team to go to meets, hang out and celebrate with, and at times to be pushed in practice. My coaches ran with me so that worked well in that sense, but you miss having that same team atmosphere.”
She joined the Hawkeyes in 1988.
“It was a great group of women,” Brower-McNutt said. “I loved it right away.”
Brower-McNutt’s mother grew up in Iowa City and her father was a surgeon at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. Her family supported the Hawkeye athletic teams, and once Brower-McNutt recognized she wanted to compete at the Division I level, enrolling at Iowa was an easy decision.
Once in college, Hassard kept Brower-McNutt’s mileage total around 60 miles per week — a typically low number for cross country and 10K runners. But it worked well for Brower-McNutt.
“I have never been able to handle super-high mileage,” she said.
Aside from brief bouts with bursitis in the knee and plantar fasciitis, the mileage total allowed Brower-McNutt to remain a healthy and productive Hawkeye.
“I was able to get continuous training and that was a key to my success,” she said.
Brower-McNutt graduated from the UI with a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy. Her husband, Matt McNutt, earned undergraduate and law degrees from the UI and is currently a patent attorney. After career stops in Minneapolis, Austin, Texas, and Minneapolis again, the McNutt family resides in Corning, N.Y., with a 13-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son.
Both daughter and son enjoy athletics, but neither tried to fill mom’s racing flats.
“In the back of my mind I thought it would be great if one of my kids would enjoy running like I do, but the biggest thing for me is that they find a sport they are passionate about and give it 100 percent,” Brower-McNutt said. “It’s no big deal for my daughter to be swimming four hours a day; the same thing with my son and lacrosse. I’m a proponent of doing something and doing it well and sticking with it. I’m proud at how hard they work at that.”
Brower-McNutt still rises early in the morning to begin a 5:30 jog. It’s typically the only “alone time” she has during a busy day as a professional and mother. When weather is unfavorable, she hops on a treadmill in the family exercise room where she is surrounded by static memories of past glory.
The Brower-McNutt wall of honor will receive a new decoration.
“It’s a culmination of all of my hard work,” she said. “You work as hard as you can and do the best you can and keep plugging away and to me this is a reward for that. I didn’t do it for awards, I did it because I enjoy working hard, setting goals and being the best I can be. This is icing on the cake and makes me reflect on my collegiate career. It was a great time in my life, and it’s such an incredible honor. This is my greatest highlight.”