Junior Kineke Alexander
Sept. 1, 2006
IOWA CITY, IA -The University of Iowa women's cross country and track teams are poised to convert recent individual success into team hardware. Head Track Coach James Grant and Head Cross Country Coach Layne Anderson plan to field teams that are not only talented, but deep for the coming season.
The Hawkeyes return 20 of 22 letterwinners in track and seven of eight in cross country. Iowa's lone losses are distance runner Nikki Chapple and thrower Erin O'Hern. The returnees account for all the team-leading performances, including nine new school records, as well as points scored at the conference, regional and national meets in track.
Back for Iowa is junior Kineke Alexander, who became Iowa's fourth national champion and its first in the sprints when she won the 400 meters at the NCAA indoor championships. She also won two Big Ten indoor titles, the 400-meter title at the NCAA regional meet and ended the outdoor season with a runner-up finish in that event at the NCAA outdoor meet. Three-time all-American Peaches Roach returns for her senior season in the high jump and junior Meghan Armstrong returns after earning all-America honors in the mile. She also represented the Hawkeyes at the NCAA cross country championships. Senior Tiffany Johnson also returns after rewriting the sprint hurdles and triple jump school records last season and posting solid performances in those events at both conference meets.
"The track and cross country teams are pretty much in the same positions in terms of talent levels and depth going into this season," said Grant. "We've known all along that our track team is very strong nationally. That was proven by our top 20 finish last season. The problem was depth, and that is necessary to finish in the top three of the Big Ten. When Kineke was injured at the Big Ten outdoor meet we lost close to 40 points and fell at least three places in the team race."
The coaching staff decided that quality depth was the answer to low team finishes and decided to fix it. According to Grant, that mission was accomplished and now the Hawkeyes are deeper than they've ever been during his tenure.
"I don't have any team predictions at this point," Grant explained. "I am expecting the entire group to step up their individual performances, and to be good leaders for our newcomers. I expect to finish in the upper division at the conference meets - regardless of injury."
Here is an event-by-event look at the 2006-07 Hawkeyes:
The entire sprint corps returns. Alexander headlines the group with her outstanding credentials, both individually and on relays. In addition to previously listed accomplishments from 2006, she set three individual school records (indoor 200 and 400 meters, outdoor 400 meters) and won the special invitation 400 meters at the Drake Relays.
Roach led the team in the 60 (7.51) and 100 meters (11.71), and anchored the team-leading 400-meter relay last season. Johnson squeezed time in for relays between her hurdle and jumps duties, running on the team-leading 400, 800 and 1,600-meter relays outdoors. She also helped set an indoor 1,600-meter relay school record (3:40.52) with senior Lindsey McCalla, junior Ashley Granger and Alexander. The quartet also earned second team all-Big Ten honors when they placed second at the conference indoor meet.
Newcomers Clarke, Poncè and Trusty will all make immediate impacts. Trusty ran on Canada's World Junior and Pan Am Junior teams and Clarke was a provincial 200-meter champion in 2004. Both will run in the 100, 200 and 400 meters. Poncè won the Illinois 400-meter state title last spring, and will compete in the 400 meters and shorter middle distances. Gilmore will provide depth.
Grant anticipates that Johnson will continue her dominance in sprint hurdles. The 2006 Drake Relays 100-meter hurdle champion, Johnson placed second in that event at the Big Ten Championships. She set school records in the 60 and 100-meter hurdles, breaking her own record in the 100.
Armstrong returns after leading the team in the 800, 1,500, 3,000 and 5,000 meters during the outdoor season and the mile indoors. She set a school record in the 1,500 meters (4:17.41), breaking the existing 17-year-old mark by over two seconds. She also placed second in that event at the Big Ten Championships and NCAA regional meet to earn a berth at the NCAA Championships.
Sophomore Krista Anderson made an impact in her first season with the Hawkeyes, leading the team in the 3,000 and 5,000 meters indoors. Senior Shannon Stanley also returns after leading the Hawkeyes in the indoor 800 meters, qualifying for the NCAA regional in the 1,500 meters. All three earned second team all-Big Ten honors when they ran on the second-place distance medley relay at the conference indoor meet.
Armstrong and Anderson return after leading the team in several events. Junior Racheal Marchand provisionally qualified for the NCAA championships in the 10,000 meters last season, leading the squad in that event. Junior Jessica Schmidt also led the Hawkeyes in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.
Newcomers Diane Nukuri and Jolly Burke could make immediate impacts. Both have had successful cross country careers and Grant anticipates that success to continue on the track. Senior Christine Kotarba, juniors Allison Billhardt and Molly Esche, sophomores Brittany Graham and Rachel Hawks, and freshman Katie Ellis and Chrissy Schaefer will provide depth.
Roach is a three-time all-American and Big Ten champion in the high jump. The 2004 Big Ten Outdoor Freshman of the Year broke a 23-year-old school record in that event with a leap of 6-1 1/4. Junior Jenni Elbert will provide depth.
Johnson returns in the triple jump after breaking her own school records last season. She placed third at the Big Ten outdoor championships and fourth at the conference indoor meet.
Sophomore Renee White returns in both the long and triple jumps. She led the team in the long jump during the indoor and outdoor seasons, qualifying for the NCAA regional meet.
Senior Sarah Burgett has led the Hawkeyes in the pole vault the last two seasons, and returns for her final campaign. Her collegiate best marks of 11-6 1/4 indoors and 12-1 3/4 outdoors rank second in school history.
Junior Tammilee Kerr returns after leading the team in the pentathlon (3,443 points) last season. She ranks third in the heptathlon and fourth in the pentathlon in school history.
Head Cross Country Coach Layne Anderson has set numerous team and individual goals for the 2006 season. He is excited to capitalize on talent that could make this team the best he has coached at Iowa.
"Since I took this job we've been trying to build a team that is both talented and deep," said Anderson. "For the first time since I've been here - and I think since the program's peak success in the 1980's - we have six to eight girls that can really help us out. We haven't enjoyed that type of depth. If they come in and run at their present level, we'll be a good team. Any improvements individually will lead to better finishes."
Anderson's goals for the 2006 Hawkeyes include are top four team finishes at the Big Ten championships and NCAA midwest regional, a team berth at the NCAA championships, and improving individual performances and the overall 5,000-meter average times.
"Our main goal is to improve and move forward," explained Anderson. "My first year we finished 11th at the Big Ten meet and ninth at the regional. In 2005, we placed seventh at the Big Ten and regional meets, and last season we placed seventh at the Big Ten meet and sixth at the regional race. We set our team goals with fourth-place finishes at both meets."
Iowa's key returnee is junior Meghan Armstrong. In 2005, she became Anderson's first NCAA qualifier at Iowa with her ninth-place regional finish. She also set the school 3,000 (10:25) and 6,000-meter (20:49) records, and the 3,000-meter (10:25) Ashton Course record. The all-region selection was the first Hawkeye finisher in every race.
Coach Anderson is looking to an untested group that includes redshirt freshman Krista Anderson, junior transfer Diane Nukuri and freshmen Jolly Burke to round out the top six. Anderson, who trained step for step with Armstrong last season, had a successful collegiate track debut in 2006, and is a natural at the longer distances. Nukuri will make an immediate impact as she has posted times comparable to Armstrong and Anderson. She was a 2000 Olympian for her native Burundi and comes from Butler County Community College where she was a two-time national junior college cross country champion. Burke placed 11th at the 2005 Footlocker Midwest Regional (17:56) and second at the Wisconsin state meet. A multi-sport athlete in the past, she has been focusing on running for the last year.
Coach Anderson also sees junior Racheal Marchand and senior Shannon Stanley vying for scoring positions in the top pack. Marchand was Iowa's second finisher at the Big Ten Championship (22nd) and NCAA regional (18th), earning all-region honors. She led the Hawkeyes in the 10,000 meters during the 2006 track season, qualifying for the NCAA outdoor championships. Stanley earned her first NCAA regional berth last spring in the 1,500 meters and will look to carry that success to 6,000 meters.
Anderson will also have a strong group to provide depth. Seniors Christine Kotarba and Jordan Laney, juniors Molly Esche and Jessica Schmidt, redshirt freshman Jennie Docherty and freshmen Katie Ellis and Chrissy Schaefer will all get opportunities to run. Esche and Schmidt will be looked at to be impact performers.
Meeting some of Iowa's goals won't be easy, according to Anderson. The Big Ten is talented and deep, and he hopes the Hawkeyes will be also. He said Michigan is the clear team favorite, but there are up to seven evenly-matched teams, including Iowa, that will battle for second place at the conference meet.