BY JAKE KRZECZOWSKI | MARCH 3, 2009 7:20 AM
Finishing last at the Big Ten indoor championships is not what Iowa women’s track and field head coach Layne Anderson expected when his squad left for Bloomington, Ind., on Feb. 26.
But with a team short on experience and numbers, that is what happened over the weekend.
The meet was not a total loss for the team, though.
Sophomore Bethany Praska scored points for Iowa, finishing sixth in the 600 meters with a time of 1:31.08. Senior Renee White earned three points for her team with a third-place finish in the long jump. Sophomore Karessa Farley made it to the finals of the 60-meter hurdles after posting a time of 8.35 in the prelims but failed to finish the final race when she fell going over a hurdle.
Also scoring in the meet was the distance-medley squad of freshmen Betsy Flood, McKenzie Melander, sophomore Tiffany Hendricks, and senior Racheal Marchand. The Hawkeye relay team came in third place with a time of 11:27.34.
Marchand, competing in the final Big Ten meet of her career, blazed past the field for second in the 5,000 meters with a collegiate-best time of 15:55.70 that also serves as an automatic qualifier for the NCAA indoor meet.
The time was only 0.07 of a second behind Wisconsin’s Gwen Jorgensen, who took first.
“I was going out to win the 5K,” Marchand said. “But I was happy getting second because the woman I lost to was very good.”
Iowa’s finish was a reflection of the work still left to be done by this young Hawkeye squad.
Anderson feels as though the addition of some more experience to the team will help them become more competitive going into the outdoor portion of the season.
“It’s hard to enjoy individual achievements when the team doesn’t do well,” he said. “We’ve got to develop everyone and improve in a lot of different areas.”
Certainly looking forward to the second half of the 2009 season are the Hardesty sisters, Amanda and Lindsey. The two posted collegiate bests, Amanda Hardesty in the 3,000 meters and Lauren Hardesty in the 800. The two make up a core of the team Anderson hopes will continue to improve.
The rest of the Hawkeyes will be looked to even more with the departure of a major point scorer such as Marchand, who is now deciding between whether to continue her running career post-college.
So far, Iowa has recruited eight scholarship athletes and hopes to have two more to go along with the 10 non-scholarship athletes it hopes to bring in during the fall semester.
Marchand leaves with some words of wisdom for both the incoming and current Hawkeyes.
“It never gets easy in the Big Ten,” she said. “It only gets harder.”