Sept. 5, 2011
By MICHELE DANNO
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- One race into the 2011 season and the freshmen are already leaving their mark on the University of Iowa men's and women's cross country teams.
Kevin Lewis, Evan Selsor, and Ben Witt opened their collegiate careers by pushing the team veterans at the 2011 Iowa Open held at Ashton Cross Country course Sept. 2. The trio crossed the finish line behind junior All-American Jeff Thode and among upperclassmen Nick Holmes and Jon Michael Brandt.
"It's nice to have the veterans back this year, plus we have three outstanding freshmen to push them," said UI men's head coach Larry Wieczorek. "This group is a nice nucleus of building blocks for the future."
Wieczorek's squad lost a pair of student-athletes to graduation, yet his squad has set its standard high and are optimistic in this "rebuilding year."
The Hawkeye women find this year's roster stacked with depth and returning experience. Adding three freshmen in 2011, women's head coach Layne Anderson is excited to see what the newcomers can bring to the team.
Kayla Beattie, an Illinois native, headlines the trio, coming to Iowa after receiving national, state, and high school laurels. Beattie competed on the national level well into late July, so she joined the Hawkeyes three weeks ago.
Anderson held her out of the Iowa Open, along with the squad's other top runners in Betsy Flood, Brooke Eilers, and McKenzie Melander, who he said he is "saving" for the more important meets in late September and October.
Beattie said she has found comfort in this little foursome, and training with the top women has been the most positive change from high school competition to college.
"Betsy, Brooke, McKenzie and I have a great little running group going, and they've really helped in the transition to collegiate running," Beattie said. "In high school, I always ran with the boys or just trained with the coaches, so having a group of girls to consistently train with and even to just be friends with has been a lot of fun."
While the men's team has been working hard, Selsor agreed that he and his teammates have also made time for fun upon their arrival at Iowa.
Finishing fourth for the Hawkeyes behind Thode, fellow freshman Lewis, and Holmes, Selsor said the "pack mentality" has applied both on and off the course this season.
"It felt great crossing the finish line with the guys I finish every day in practice with," Selsor said. "We run hard every day together, and it's nice having that emphasis on team running and pack-training. We spend a lot of time together outside of practice, too. Whether it's studying or just goofing off, I've developed a pretty tight-knit relationship with the guys."
The young Hawkeyes will get another chance to showcase their talents Sept. 16 at the Iowa Invitational.