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By HANNAH OSSMAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa cross country program will lean on experience Sunday when it competes at the 2018 Big Ten Championships in Lincoln, Nebraska. The women’s 6,000 meter competition begins at 10:45 a.m. (CT), the men’s 8,000 meter race starts at 11:45 a.m.
The Hawkeye men have seven returning to the championships: Nathan Mylenek, Daniel Soto, Daniel Murphy, Karson Sommer, Brandon Cooley, Ian Eklin, and Bailey Hesse-Withbroe. Mylenek led the men’s team during the 2017 season with a 28th-place finish.
Senior Andrea Shine is the only Hawkeye female running this weekend with Big Ten Championship experience. She returns this season after finishing in first scoring position, 29th overall, at the 2017 championship. She continued her leadership role, pacing Iowa in three of four competitions with two wins under her belt throughout the season.
The experience from the upperclassmen and experience on the Mahoney Golf Course has given head coach Randy Hasenbank reasonable expectations for the weekend. The Hawkeyes first ran the course at the Woody Greeno Invitational on Sept. 15.
“We’re confident that we know exactly how this course is laid out, how it runs. There are a few hills, but mostly, it’s a rolling course,” Hasenbank said. “These teams are all full of savvy competitors with a lot of veterans that have been running for years. I don’t know if the course is going to have as much determination in the outcome. We always tell our team that you are going to be defined by how you perform at championships. Here is the championship.”
Shine had success this season on the course, earning the second win of her career. The team’s preparation this season, along with the training they’ve done this past week, has helped assure Shine that they are ready as a unit.
“I think [going back to the course] is helping a lot with our confidence,” Shine said. “We know what to expect in the 6,000 meters. We can be competitive and have an advantage on the teams that weren’t there this season. We can use our knowledge on the course to run well.
“I think the entire team is excited going into Big Ten [Championships]. We had a great workout [early in the week], where everyone was feeling fast and then felt recovered [the next day]. We have the two biggest factors perfectly aligned for the race Sunday.”
On the women’s side, there have been three Hawkeyes up front all season. Senior Megan Schott joined Shine in the front of the Hawkeye pack scoring in second position in three meets; Schott was Iowa’s top runner at the Bradley Invitational.
The pair had a strong third runner behind them in freshman Anna Hostetler. Hostetler made a direct impact for the women’s team from the beginning of the season, placing in the top 15 at the Hawkeye Invitational, top 25 at Woody Greeno, and top 30 at the Bradley Invitational on Oct. 12.
“The women’s team is much improved from a year ago,” Hasenbank said. “We’ve got a good 1-2-3. We need the rest of the lineup to run well. There’s a lot of youth in the back of the lineup. They have to be ready from the start. You can’t work your way into this type of race. You need to be ready to go as soon as the gun goes and compete at a high level.
The men have seen a lot of success this season as well, moving from a USTFCCCA Regional ranking of No. 8, up to No. 6 in the final poll of the regular season.
Senior Daniel Soto led the Hawkeyes in three meets this season and Mylenek scored in second position in two races before moving to first scoring position at the end of the regular season.
“On the men’s side, we’ve got a number of [upperclassmen],” said Hasenbank. “We’ll lean on their experience. They know exactly what this meet is about, the intensity in the meet, the focus that you have to have, the determination, and the will to win. Our goal is upper division finishes and to improve where we were last year. Everyone is excited about the opportunity to put a good product on the course.”
Mylenek mimicked Hasenbank’s expectations for the men this weekend. Personally, he hopes for a better result in this specific race after taking 28th in 2017.
“My legs are feeling good and I’m ready to roll,” said Mylenek. “Last year, I felt more down and beaten up because I had a long summer. I never stopped training. This year, I started training a little later. Coming into Big Ten [Championships], I feel healthier and stronger.”
The Hawkeyes continue postseason competition Nov. 9 at the NCAA Regional in Madison, Wisconsin.