May 29, 2014
By DARREN MILLER
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- The real story isn't that University of Iowa junior distance runner Shannon Maser finished her season Thursday, it's that she did it at the NCAA Championships.
In 2012 -- when Maser was in her second year of college -- she entered head coach Layne Anderson's office and asked if she could walk onto the Hawkeye track and field program. Anderson looked at her personal bests of 2:21.21 in the 800 meters, 5:21.54 in the 1,600, and 11:36.56 in the 3,200 that she compiled at Blue Valley West High School in Stilwell, Kansas, and wondered if Maser would ever see the track against Division I competition.
Maser has more than risen to the task; the next step is becoming more comfortable challenging the fastest 1,500-meter runners in the nation. On Thursday in the first round of the NCAA West Preliminary at John McDonnell Field, Maser finished 40th with a time of 4-minutes, 29.11-seconds.
"My nerves before this race have been probably the worst they have ever been," Maser said. "Knowing that I'm running against the best athletes in the nation; I'm going to try to work on my nerves and not let my emotions interfere with my racing as much as they did today."
Maser placed ninth at the Big Ten Championships on May 17 with a time of 4:25.09. That marked approximately a 35-second PR from when she stepped on campus until this season.
Now for the best news: A few days ago, she decided to return next year for a fifth season.
"She gained some tremendous experience, even more confidence, and she has a real hunger going forward in the future," Anderson said. "I believe we'll see here back in this setting again with a little more ammunition in her belt."
"I'm doing that with the full intent of making it to nationals next year," she said. "This meet today was a good preview of what I'm going to be doing next year. Next year I actually hope to make it to the final round of the NCAA Championships."
Last season after the Musco Twilight, Maser sent a tweet wishing she could have run faster than her then personal best of 4:40 in the 1,500. On Thursday her goal was to break 4:20.
"It actually started last summer," she said. "I totally revamped my whole training philosophy. I started running every day -- most days I ran twice a day and I never really stopped. It's paying off now."
Action resumes at the NCAA West Preliminary on Friday at 10 a.m. (CT) with the men's hammer throw. The first event involving a Hawkeye is the women's discus at 3, where sophomore Dakotah Goodell will compete. The first event for the UI on the track begins at 5, where sophomore Aaron Mallett runs the 110-meter high hurdles.