XC Notebook: 2021 Hawkeye Invite

IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa men’s and women’s cross country teams kick off the 2021 season, hosting the Hawkeye Invite on Friday. The Hawkeyes host Bradley, Creighton, Drake, Illinois-Chicago, Illinois State, Iowa Central CC, Iowa State (women), Loyola-Chicago, Northern Illinois (women), Northern Iowa, and Northwestern (women) at the Ashton Cross Country Course. The women’s 4,000-meter race begins at 6 p.m. (CT). The men’s 6,000 meters begins at 6:45 p.m. Admission is free.

The University of Iowa men’s and women’s cross country team’s home for training and competition is the Ashton Cross Country Course. Located west of the Finkbine Golf Course, the course first opened in 2003 and has hosted the 2014 Big Ten Championships and 2016 NCAA Regional. The course boasts a rolling terrain with an outstanding rhythm for running and offers the ability to race from 3,000 meters to 10,000 meters around a layout that enables spectators to view the entire race from start to finish. The Ashton Cross Country Course will also play host to the NCAA Midwest Regional this fall.

The University of Iowa men’s cross country team is ranked No. 12 in the USTFCCCA Midwest Region preseason polls. The Hawkeyes are one of four Big Ten teams ranked in the Midwest top 15, including No. 4 Minnesota, No. 7 Nebraska, and No. 10 Illinois. There are eight additional Big Ten teams ranked in their respective regions, including Wisconsin, Michigan State, Indiana, Purdue, Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State and Rutgers. In the USTFCCCA Preseason National rankings, Wisconsin sits atop the Big Ten as the nation’s 14th-ranked squad. Also in the National top 30 is No. 16 Michigan State, No. 22 Indiana, and No. 26 Michigan.

The Hawkeyes are eager to be back at home after 729 days away from Ashton Cross Country Course. Due to the pandemic and the cancellation of the 2020 fall season, the last home meet for the Hawkeyes was held on Sept. 6, 2019. The Hawkeyes captured both team titles on that day.

Senior Noah Healy is back for his fourth cross country season with the Hawkeyes. In 2019, Healy was Iowa’s second finisher at the Midwest Regional, running a collegiate-best 10K in 31:58. Sophomore Max Murphy will look to build upon a top-55 finish at the Big Ten Championships in his freshman campaign. Junior Nick Trattner is Iowa’s top returner from the 2019 Hawkeye Invitational. Trattner finished 17th in 18:47 in his first collegiate race. Seniors Jeff Roberts and Konnor Sommer also raced in the 2019 Hawkeye Invite, finishing 19th and 22nd.

Junior Gabby Skopec returns for her third cross country season at Iowa. At the Big Ten Championships in 2020, Skopec was the top finisher for the Hawkeyes, running the 6K in 21:15 — good for a spot in the top 50. Sophomore Kelli Tosic finished 61st in the same race in 22:06. A freshman at the time, it was the first race of Tosic’s career. The top returning finisher from the last Hawkeye Invite in 2019 is junior Leah Kralovetz, who finished fifth. Kralovetz was an All-Region honoree in 2019 after a 16th-place finish. The junior was the top finisher for the Hawkeyes in three races that season.

The University of Iowa cross country team added 16 student-athletes to its 2021 roster. Six men join the Hawkeyes: Will Arbanas, Jack Gschwendtner, Isaac Hartman, Blake Hayden, Colin Hill and Yohana Yual. On the women’s side, the ten new Hawkeyes include Laney Fitzpatrick, Jaiden Itson, Kaitlin Knape, Lauren McMahon, Sarah Murphy, Miriam Sandeen, Lillian Schmidt, Chloe Skidmore, Sam Strauss, and Kathryn Vortherms.

Of the 30 women on Iowa’s roster, 21 hail from the Hawkeye State. Seven additional states, including Wisconsin (2), Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Kansas, and Texas are represented, as well as Japan. On the men’s side, four of the 17 members are from Iowa. Illinois is represented by 7 student-athletes, while Wisconsin is the home of three Hawkeyes. Missouri, New York and New Jersey are each represented with one student-athlete.

The Hawkeyes head to Lincoln, Nebraska, to compete at the Dirksen-Greeno Invite on Saturday, Sept. 18.

For an inside look at the Iowa cross country program and to access exclusive coverage, “like” The University of Iowa Cross Country and Track & Field Facebook page and follow the Hawks on Twitter (@IowaXC_TF) and Instagram (@iowaxctf).