Hawkeyes seek to play in Peoria

Junior+Sam+McElhiney+and+Senior+Daniel+Huff+battle+towards+the+finish+line+during+the+men%27s+6k+race+on+Friday%2C+Sep.+4%2C+2015+at+the+Ashton+Cross+Country+Course+in+Iowa+City%2C+Iowa.+%28The+Daily+Iowan%2FBrooklynn+Kascel%29
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Hawkeyes seek to play in Peoria

Junior Sam McElhiney and Senior Daniel Huff battle towards the finish line during the men's 6k race on Friday, Sep. 4, 2015 at the Ashton Cross Country Course in Iowa City, Iowa. (The Daily Iowan/Brooklynn Kascel)

Junior Sam McElhiney and Senior Daniel Huff battle towards the finish line during the men's 6k race on Friday, Sep. 4, 2015 at the Ashton Cross Country Course in Iowa City, Iowa. (The Daily Iowan/Brooklynn Kascel)

Brooklynn Kascel

Junior Sam McElhiney and Senior Daniel Huff battle towards the finish line during the men's 6k race on Friday, Sep. 4, 2015 at the Ashton Cross Country Course in Iowa City, Iowa. (The Daily Iowan/Brooklynn Kascel)

Brooklynn Kascel

Brooklynn Kascel

Junior Sam McElhiney and Senior Daniel Huff battle towards the finish line during the men's 6k race on Friday, Sep. 4, 2015 at the Ashton Cross Country Course in Iowa City, Iowa. (The Daily Iowan/Brooklynn Kascel)

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Today, the Iowa men’s cross-country team will travel to Peoria, Illinois, for the Bradley Pink Classic, which starts at 4:25 p.m.

Their competition includes some of the tougher teams in the Midwest, including Bradley, Illinois, Illinois State, Missouri, and Nebraska — all ranked in the top 15 in the region.

While this competition differs from that of their last meet (six teams ranked in the top 30 nationally), the Hawkeyes plan to keep their minds in the right direction.

“The competition is not as steep as last meet, but that does not mean we can lose focus,” junior Ben Anderson said.

The Hawkeyes strive to gain momentum going into their last invitational before heading into a crucial part of their season.

“This meet is big for us so we can go into the Big Ten Championships on a high note,” senior Anthony Gregorio said. “That will give us confidence and proof that we can run with some of the best teams within the conference.”

Gregorio stands as Iowa’s top runner in the 8,000-meter race, with a time of 25:07.3.

Along with Gregorio, Anderson and Michael Melchert will lead the Hawks heading into Peoria. Those three led the Hawks in the Notre Dame Invitational — Melchert finished 61st, Anderson 86th, and Gregorio 90th.

The Hawks placed 20th as a team and failed to place a runner in the top 60.

“Our fate was sealed a mile into that race,” head coach Layne Anderson said.

The Hawkeyes fell behind early and could not make moves to significantly increase their place.

Anderson’s team failed to get off to a desired start, the runners agreed.

“We need to get out a lot better,” Melchert said. “We got behind a huge pack and never really got together as a whole.”

The team remains dissatisfied with its performance and hungry to improve.

“We were extremely disappointed with Notre Dame,” Gregorio said. “We are approaching [Bradley] aggressively. We know it’s a smaller invitational, but it is a great chance to work together and show the fitness levels we know we have.”

Failing to run up to standards has plagued Iowa this season. Pack running is the main focus in all practices, but the team has failed to stick together while keeping up with the competition.

“Our challenge is not that we have not been stressing [pack running] enough,” Layne Anderson said. “Our challenge has been the execution of it.”

The runners know this.

“Our goal is to perform like we have been working out,” Gregorio said. “We need to work on our pack running and hopefully get our pack inside the top 10.”

Ben Anderson agrees with Gregorio, saying that if the Hawks effectively runs as a pack, they will succeed.

“The focus is and always will be on pack running as well as we can,” he said. “We just have to commit to getting together and staying together.”

To seize much needed momentum heading into the second-half of their season, the Hawkeyes will need to do just that.

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