Feb. 5, 2015
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- 24 Hawkeyes to Watch
Editor’s note: 24 Hawkeyes to Watch is a feature released Monday, Aug. 4, 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 2014-15 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.
By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — The question isn’t asked much anymore.
“Are you Elexis Guster?” people would probe the University of Iowa sophomore during her days of domination as a track star in Georgia.
Guster might not be a household face in the Big Ten Conference yet, but after an impressive first season for the Hawkeyes in 2014, that day is getting close. As a college freshman, she ran the second leg on Iowa’s 4×100-meter relay that placed 16th at the NCAA Championships to earn second-team All-America honors. During the outdoor season she won the Big Ten Conference title in the 400 dash (52.77) and was named Iowa’s most outstanding freshman.
“I don’t want to be OK being the freshman who won Big Tens one time,” Guster said. “I have bigger plans for myself. Winning Big Tens has driven me to go for more. This season I set my goals higher — I want to qualify for national finals and place at nationals. It has driven me because I know I have more in me.”
Guster spent most of her youth in Michigan before her family moved to Atlanta prior to her eighth grade year. She set Berkmar school records in the 100, 200, and 400-meter dashes, as well as the 300 hurdles. Guster was regional champion in the 300 hurdles and 400.
After her breakthrough freshman season at Iowa, Guster knows opponents are searching for her at the starting line. But she has experience being the hunted.
“It was like that in high school for me,” Guster said. “I had people coming up to me asking, `Are you Elexis Guster?’ It pushed me a little bit. I know I am going to be the hunted, so I take that into consideration and run my fastest.”
When Guster arrived at the University of Iowa she admitted to being out of shape. It was a struggle to finish practices, so associate head coach Clive Robert called a meeting.
“He said `E, you have to get it together, you’re better than this,'” Guster recalls.
The tone of Roberts’ message wasn’t malicious and Guster said she knew it came from his heart. In turn, she funneled the words from her coach into her own heart.
“I knew I was better than that to come in and go through the motions,” Guster said. “It drove me to become a better athlete. I knew he believed in me, and I believed in myself.”
“I don’t want to be OK being the freshman who won Big Tens one time. I have bigger plans for myself. Winning Big Tens has driven me to go for more. This season I set my goals higher — I want to qualify for national finals and place at nationals. It has driven me because I know I have more in me.”
UI sophomore trackster
She led the team in the indoor 400 meters (54.08) and ran on 4×400 meter relays that posted three of the top eight marks in school history. Guster was third at the Big Ten Championships in the 400 and fourth in the 4×400.
“From then, I was killing workouts,” Guster said. “When it became Big Ten indoor, I got third (in the 400) and it was shocking. So OK, let me take the next step.”
That next step evolved into a huge leap during outdoor season. Guster ran second leg on the school-record and Big Ten champion 4×100 meter relay and won the Big Ten individual 400 title.
“Although I was a Big Ten champion, I don’t feel right being OK with running 52.7,” Guster said. “I know I can run 50, I can run with the best. I have confidence and I know I can do better.”
A stronger, more mature, and faster Guster is off to a flying start to her second collegiate season. She won the 200 (24.33) and led off the winning 4×400 relay (3:42.3) at Big 4 Duals (Jan. 24) and was third in 600 meters (1:32.35) at the Border Battle (Jan. 10). At Big 4 Duals she won the 200 by more than a second and the Hawkeyes won the 4×400 by nearly seven seconds. As for moving up in distance with a 600?
“It was a great feeling because (the 600) is setting me up for the 400 later down the road,” Guster said. “That should be a piece of cake.”
Guster will run her first competitive 400 of the season Feb. 6 at the Frank Sevigne Husker Invitational in Lincoln, Nebraska. She is in Section 9 (of 10), that also includes teammate MonTayla Holder.
“Everything she has shown in practice is far superior than what she has shown last year,” Roberts said. “She is a lot more confident in herself and from a training standpoint it is increased over a year. She understands the Big Ten and the national level. The sky is the limit.”
Guster shies from setting too many goals. She would rather let it fly on the track and see where the results take her.
“I don’t have a limit for myself. I want to be great, I want to stand out, I know I have all the abilities to be an elite athlete and go to the national meet,” Guster said. “I just want to go out there, run, and put everything I have into it.”
Roberts says the Hawkeyes have more in Guster than a good athlete. He said she is a great person and teammate.
“She is always looking out for people,” Roberts said. “What she brings to the group is being a quality individual. The athletic part is easy for her, it falls into place. The person that she is stands out.”
Guster relishes being in the sights of opponents, primarily because she thinks they will be surprised by her growth.
“They don’t know how far I have progressed,” Guster said. “I’m eating better, sleeping more. It’s more of me focusing on my race because I know everyone is after me. I know I am in better shape and trusting myself that I am capable of doing better than I did last year.”
The question isn’t asked much anymore. Nearly everyone knows Elexis Guster.