Senior Renee White
Aug. 27, 2008
Youth is some thing that people chase after. Those people are not collegiate coaches. While graduating successful student-athletes is both a job requirement and a sign of a successful program, most coaches would prefer to balance the losses with returning experience. Head Coach Layne Anderson, in his first official season leading both the Hawkeye women's cross country and track and field programs, will have the task of turning youthful, inexperienced squads into contenders. He lost five of the most decorated student-athletes in Hawkeye history to graduation.
Anderson, who served as interim head coach for both sports last season and as head cross country coach the past five years, will be joined by new assistant coaches Clive Roberts and Christi Smith. Roberts, who will oversee the horizontal jumps, short sprints and hurdles, comes to Iowa City after a two-year stint at Bowling Green State. Smith, who was the 2000 NCAA heptathlon champion, joins the Hawkeyes after coaching at Kent State last season and Ohio University the previous two years. She will coach the vertical jumps and multi-events.
During his time at Iowa, Anderson has had the pleasure of coaching some of the most accomplished student-athletes in school history and leading both teams to success on the national, regional and conference levels. Former Hawkeyes Kineke Alexander, Meghan Armstrong, Tammilee Kerr, Diane Nukuri and Jessica Schmidt combined for one NCAA title, 16 all-America honors, four regional titles, 13 all-region honors, nine Big Ten titles, 16 school records and nine academic all-Big Ten honors. As a result of the individual successes, the Hawkeye cross country team has qualified for the NCAA Championships the last two seasons, after a 14-year absence, and have either improved or maintained their finish at the Big Ten and regional meets. In 2008 the track and field team crowned five all-Americans and won four Big Ten individual titles. The Hawkeyes had 14 NCAA indoor provisional qualifiers, four NCAA outdoor automatic qualifiers, two NCAA outdoor provisional qualifiers and qualified nine for the NCAA Midwest regional.
The cupboard is far from empty as seniors Renee White and Racheal Marchand, along with junior Jolly Burke return with conference and national experience. White won the 2008 Big Ten indoor triple jump (42-4) and earned all-region honors in both the long and triple jumps (20-3 3/4, 43-10), last season. Marchand is a two-time all-American and all-region distance runner, who has eligibility for cross country and indoor track. Her best cross country times rank in the top 10 in school history. Burke was Iowa's third finisher behind Nukuri and Armstrong during the 2007 cross country season, earning all-Big Ten and all-region honors. The junior missed out on all-America honors by less than a second at the NCAA Championships. Burke also brings national experience to the group, as she was a member of the 2007 U.S. World Junior Cross Country Team.
Anderson and his staff will rely heavily on a group of inexperienced returnees and talented newcomers in every event. Senior Krista Anderson, juniors Katie Ellis and Fionna Fallon, sophomores Amanda and Lauren Hardesty and Hannah Roeder are looking for breakout seasons in cross country and the track distance events, while senior high jumper Caleigh Bacchus, senior thrower Mandy Chandler, junior sprinters Rhonda-Kaye Trusty and Sophia Poncé, sophomore sprinters Tiffany Hendricks and Bethany Praska, and sophomore hurdler Karessa Farley will try to improve.
"There are a lot of unanswered questions when it comes to our returnees," said Anderson. "We obviously need several people to step in and immediately contribute in multiple events. The good part is we have numerous candidates on the verge of great performances."
Iowa's newcomers also bring outstanding credentials to campus, and Anderson will be counting on each one. The group consists of transfer Sarah Spencer Perry (Sioux Falls, SD) and freshmen Lindsay Anderson (Leeds, ND), Danielle Berndt (Bloomington, MN), Brittany Dlhy (West Branch, IA), Brooke Eilers (Holland, MI), Nicole Erickson (Cedar Rapids, IA), Betsy Flood (Des Moines, IA), Courtney Johnson (Marion, IA), Susan Kuhl (Beaman, IA), Jackie Laesch (Wheaton, IL) and McKenzie Melander (Apple Valley, MN). Spencer Perry, a three-time NCAA Division III all-American in cross country and track for Grinnell College, will add immediate firepower. Her best time of 21:28 in the 6,000 meters would rank seventh in Iowa history. She also won two cross country conference titles at Grinnell and the 2007 Drake Relays 10,000 meters. Anderson, who is the younger sister of senior Krista Anderson, was a two-time Footlocker finalist and 14-time state champion in cross country and track. Eilers won two state track titles in the distance events, while Flood won four state titles and set state records in the 800 (2:11), 1500 (4:33) and 3,000 meters (9:58). Berndt and Melander were two of the top distance runners in Minnesota last year. Berndt was also a high school all-American in nordic skiing.
The Iowa cross country and track teams are set to compete at top quality meets across the country in 2008-09. The cross country squad opens the 2008 season August 29 with the Hawkeye Invite at Ashton Cross Country Course in Iowa City. The Hawkeyes will also host the Iowa Invite (Sept. 12). The team will then head to the Loyola Lakefront Invite in Chicago (Sept. 27) and the Auburn Invite (Oct. 4) before testing the NCAA course in Terre Haute, IN, at the Pre-Nationals on Oct. 18. The University of Michigan will host the Big Ten Championships (Nov. 2). Iowa will then head to Stillwater, OK, for the NCAA Midwest regional and a chance to qualify for the season-ending NCAA Championships in Terre Haute (Nov. 24).
Following is an event-by-event breakdown for the 2008-09 season:
Sprints & Relays
Replacing Kineke Alexander is next to impossible. The 2006 NCAA Indoor 400-meter champion, she became Iowa's first eight-time all-American and won five Big Ten and two regional titles. The task will be up to Trusty, Praska, Poncé, White, Erickson and Johnson. Redshirt freshmen Kelsey Mims, Lisa Mellecker and Abbie Mumpower will also compete. Trusty led the team in the 60 (7.61), 100 (11.90) and 200 meters (24.39) last season. Her best 60-meter time ranks sixth in school history, and she placed sixth in that event at the 2008 Big Ten Championships. White and Trusty ran on the team-leading 400-meter relay last year, while White, Hendricks and Praska each ran on the team's top 1,600-meter relay. Praska and Poncé will compete in the longer sprints and middle distances. Praska's best 600-meter time (1:34.66) ranks seventh in school history, while Poncé's 600-yard (1:24.55) and 800-meter (2:10.35) marks rank seventh on Iowa's all-time best performers list.
White led the Hawkeyes in the 60-meter hurdles last season, placing seventh at the Big Ten meet. Her best time of 8.45 in that event ranks third in school history, while her best 100-meter hurdles mark of 14.20 ranks ninth. Farley was a close second in the 60-meter hurdles, placing eighth at the conference meet and posting a collegiate-best 8.46, which ranks fifth in school history. Impressed with Farley's potential after one indoor season of competition, Anderson compared her to former Hawkeye great Tiffany Johnson, who holds the 60 and 100-meter school records. Hendricks and Mumpower will also compete in the hurdles events.
White will lead the team in the horizontal jumps, and Anderson expects her to be a factor at the Big Ten and NCAA levels. In addition to winning the 2008 Big Ten indoor triple jump title, she holds the school indoor and outdoor triple jump marks (42-4, 43-10), and is the only jumper in school history to go over 42 feet during either season. White also holds Iowa's second-best marks in the indoor and outdoor long jump (19-3 1/4, 20-3 3/4). She placed 11th in the triple jump at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, and provisionally qualified for the national indoor meet in that event.
Bacchus returns in the high jump after placing sixth at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships with a team-leading and collegiate-best 5-7 1/4. Anderson hopes she can use last season's success as a stepping stone for a breakout season in 2009.
Throws & Multi-Events
These are some of Iowa's least experienced events. Kerr was Iowa's first heptathlon all-American since 1982, and was a mainstay and NCAA qualifier in the javelin. Chandler returns in the shot put after leading the team in that event the past two outdoor seasons. Her best marks rank in the school's top 10 in that event. Hendricks and Mumpower are also listed as multi-event competitors.
The cross country squad has enjoyed team and individual success the past five seasons and Anderson thinks this can continue, despite the losses of Nukuri and Armstrong.
The Hawkeyes have qualified for the last two NCAA meets and placed sixth at the Big Ten meet - which is the team's highest finish since 1993 - and third at the NCAA Midwest regional - which is Iowa's highest finish under Anderson - the last two years. During his tenure, the Hawkeyes have set school records in the 3,000, 4,000, 5,000 and 6,000 meters.
With only two years at Iowa, Nukuri made a lasting impact on the Hawkeye record books. She won two NCAA Midwest regional titles, earned two all-America honors and became only the second Hawkeye in school history to win a Big Ten title. She earned Athlete of the Year honors and set meet records at both the Big Ten and regional championships. A finalist for the national Honda Award in cross country, Nukuri holds all four school cross country records and four course records. Armstrong became the first women's cross country competitor in school history to earn three all-region honors. She was Anderson's first NCAA cross country qualifier at Iowa, placing 79th at the 2005 national meet.
"Even with our recent cross country success, the one element missing was the quality depth we needed to make a run at a top five NCAA finish," he explained. "We have individuals who should challenge for all-America honors, but our gap from fourth to seventh place finishers should be much closer than it has been. Our goal is to get back to the national meet as a team, and I think we have the ability to do it."
Marchand and Burke have the most successful experience of the returning group, and will be expected to lead the squad. Krista Anderson, who has junior eligibility in cross country, and the Hardesty's all raced in the top five at different times last season, and will need to do that consistently this year. Anderson's top times in each of the four distances rank in the top 10 in school history, Lauren Hardesty ranks seventh in the 4,000 and 6,000 meters and Amanda Hardesty ranks 10th in the 6,000 meters. Fallon, Roeder and Ellis will provide experience depth. Newcomers Spencer Perry, Lindsay Anderson, Eilers, Melander, Berndt and Flood should also contribute immediately.