Hall of Fame Spotlight: Kris (Fillat) Buchanan

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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. To receive daily news from the Iowa Hawkeyes, sign up HERE.

IOWA CITY, Iowa  — Shortly after Kris (Fillat) Buchanan was received into the USA Field Hockey Hall of Fame, she got word that she was one of seven former Hawkeyes to be inducted into the National Iowa Varsity Club Athletics Hall of Fame.
“My brother said, ‘I’m starting to realize that you were a really good field hockey player,'” Buchanan said.
It was a fact Hawkeye fans understood and appreciated 29 years earlier when Buchanan enrolled at the University of Iowa after an outstanding career at Serra High School in San Diego. By the time Buchanan graduated from Iowa with a degree in communications in 1992 — “truth be told, I pretty much majored in field hockey” she joked — the Hawkeyes had won 78 matches (including nine in four different NCAA tournaments), three Big Ten championships, and played in four (yes, four) NCAA Final Fours.
“I lost one game in high school and Iowa won the national championship (in 1986),” Buchanan said. “I can’t imagine not going to the Final Four. It was never a thought or an option. For me, it was a basic expectation we would do that.”
Iowa’s main obstacle during Buchanan’s career was Old Dominion. The Big Blue defeated Iowa in an NCAA semifinal in 1990 and in the finals in 1988 and 1992. The Hawkeyes finished second, fourth, third, and second in the nation with Buchanan in the lineup.
“As much as I am proud of it, it is still frustrating that we never won the national championship,” she said.
Iowa was primed for a national title run in 1991, but Buchanan and teammates Kristy Gleason and Andrea Wieland received waivers to spend the season training for an opportunity to represent the United States in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. Even without those three, the Hawkeyes went 17-2-1, won the Big Ten title, and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
“That was hard because we left our team during a year when we could have done it,” Buchanan said. “My coach, Beth Beglin, was a three-time Olympian (1980, 1984, 1988), so she understood our goals and dreams. As competitive as she is, as hard as she worked, and as much as she wanted to win a national championship, she said we had to do this.”
Buchanan, who played right wing for the Hawkeyes, was named first-team All-Big Ten and first-team All-America in 1990 and 1992. She spent more than a decade on the U.S. Women’s National Team and helped lead the team to a fifth-place finish at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. Buchanan made her debut with the U.S. Women’s National Team in 1990 and competed in three World Cups (1990, 1994, 1998), including a bronze-medal finish in 1994. Other accolades include a third-place finish at the 1991 Pan American Games and a second-place finish at the 1995 and 1999 Pan American Games, third place at the 1995 Champions Trophy held in Mar del Plata, Argentina, and an Olympic Qualifying tournament appearance in Milton Keynes, England.
Buchanan remembers making the National Team as a sophomore in college, a distinction that required a lot of extra training.
“We couldn’t just walk into the Bubble by ourselves and do that stuff,” Buchanan said.

I lost one game in high school and Iowa won the national championship (in 1986). I can’t imagine not going to the Final Four. It was never a thought or an option. For me, it was a basic expectation we would do that.
–Kris (Fillat) Buchanan

Enter Iowa head wrestling coach Dan Gable. 
“He would let us come into his workout room and get on the exercise bike right in the middle of wrestling practice,” Buchanan said. “We could use the weights and go into their sauna. He said, ‘I am never going to stop any athlete from wanting to work out.’
“It was a cool memory I have of him being supportive of us. We were female athletes and here is a legend at the school allowing us to work out if we wanted to work out.”
Buchanan also remembers “ultra-supportive” athletic trainer Faye Thompson.  
“She is a legend as well,” Buchanan said. “She would let us come into the training room and use equipment there so we could do workouts.”
High school players from San Diego didn’t get much recruiting fanfare from field hockey powers on the East Coast. Still, Buchanan wanted to spread her wings and fly away from California for a few years. She landed at Grant Field in Iowa City.
Once I saw the facilities and the amazing campus at Iowa, it was a no-brainer,” Buchanan said.
She saw more than fine facilities during her five years in the Midwest.
“The first time I saw snow was in Iowa, the first time I heard wind chill factor was in Iowa,” Buchanan said. “I never owned boots or a jacket, so it was a rude awakening. I was made fun of a lot. I wore tights and a beanie on my head all the time when we played.”
Since 2001, Buchanan has owned the restaurant GOODONYA in Encinitas, California. She also helps run a company that produces and sells organic products, including drinks, protein powders, coffee, and sandwiches.
“When I was traveling the world, I would steal menus from restaurants and collect them and try to think of a (restaurant) name,” Buchanan said. “I would think of menu items, so I always knew I was going to open a restaurant when I retired.”
The University of Iowa Athletics Hall of Fame induction will be held inside the Grand Coral Ballroom at the Coralville Marriott Hotel and Convention Center.
The induction ceremony and reception is open to the public. Tickets may be purchased online at hawkeyesports.com, over the phone at 800-IA-HAWKS, or at the UI Athletics Ticket Office inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. For more information please call the Varsity Club office at (319) 335-9438.
All former Hawkeye athletes who have won at least one major letter are eligible for the Iowa Athletics Hall of Fame. Athletes must have completed their eligibility at least 10 years and coaches/administrators at least five years prior to their selection.