Hawkeye harriers set for Big Tens

Sophomore+Michael+Melchert+and+Senior+Anthony+Gregorio+of+Iowa+move+to+the+front+of+the+pack+after+the+start+of+their+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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Hawkeye harriers set for Big Tens

Sophomore Michael Melchert and Senior Anthony Gregorio of Iowa move to the front of the pack after the start of their 6k race on Friday, Sep. 4, 2015 at the Ashton Cross Country Course in Iowa City, Iowa. (The Daily Iowan/Brooklynn Kascel)

Sophomore Michael Melchert and Senior Anthony Gregorio of Iowa move to the front of the pack after the start of their 6k race on Friday, Sep. 4, 2015 at the Ashton Cross Country Course in Iowa City, Iowa. (The Daily Iowan/Brooklynn Kascel)

Brooklynn Kascel

Sophomore Michael Melchert and Senior Anthony Gregorio of Iowa move to the front of the pack after the start of their 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

Sophomore Michael Melchert and Senior Anthony Gregorio of Iowa move to the front of the pack after the start of their 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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As the Big Ten Championship comes into view, the Iowa men’s cross-country team aims to build on its recent success.

Three Hawkeyes ran personal best times at the Bradley Pink Classic two weeks ago. On Nov. 1, their biggest test of the season arrives.

But it remains business as usual, head coach Layne Anderson said.

“We are excited about the opportunity that awaits us,” he said. “I don’t think we’ve taken any different approach to this week than any other week.”

He said that the runners want to avoid underperforming, and one way they can do so is by getting off to a desired start.

At the Notre Dame Invitational, where Iowa faced its toughest competition to date, the Hawks fell behind the pack early and were not able to recover.

As Anderson said, the race will be treated like any other. That means pack running will be the main focus.

“Our top three guys need to be in the top 20, and our fourth and fifth runners need to be in the top 40 for us to place well,” sophomore Michael Melchert said.

This is not Melchert’s first Big Ten Championship; last season, he finished 59th for the Hawkeyes.

Kevin Docherty, Anthony Gregorio, and Ben Anderson also raced in the 2014 meet. With four runners returning, their experience could be one of their primary weapons.

“Experience is huge in this sport,” Ben Anderson said. “I will take how we did last year and try to better it — each and every single one of us.”

Those who ran in last year’s championship meet have grown since then, Layne Anderson said.

“All four guys are certainly better today than they were a year ago at this time,” he said. “It’s nice that the guys who are returners are also guys that are leading us.”

Even though Iowa has the leadership and experience to improve upon last season’s eighth-place finish in the championship, national powerhouses stand in their way.

Michigan heads to Evanston, Illinois, ranked fifth in the nation. Despite entering the meet as the best team in the Big Ten, its runners, too, plan on treating this meet like any other.

The Wolverines have a team-first mindset, as described by head coach Kevin Sullivan.

“We are going to run with the mindset that we have a team that, where if everyone runs to his potential, has an opportunity to win a Big Ten Championship,” he said.

Following Michigan in the rankings are No. 19 Michigan State, No. 27 Wisconsin, and No. 28 Indiana.

Michigan State would like to topple its in-state rival as the best team in the conference. Spartan director of cross-country Walt Drenth wants his runners to be in top form.

“[Our runners’] mindset and our objectives as coaches are primarily to see what our best is on [Nov. 1] — a place goal is secondary to being completely locked into the next task,” he said.

Aside from the top teams in the conference, one team has gone under the radar for most of the season.

Illinois ranks as the top Big Ten team in Iowa’s Midwest Region. Led by head coach Jake Stewart, the Illini feel they have similar momentum to the Hawkeyes.

Stewart believes that his team has had its “best lead up to the championships.”

“The challenge is to get everyone to run at his level on the same day,” he said.

Nov. 1 will be the first of the toughest challenges for the Hawkeyes during the championship season. Their work will be put to test on the biggest stage yet.

“We’ve had great workouts all the way through,” Layne Anderson said. “We’ve been about as close to perfect as you can be”

Follow @A_Hens83 on Twitter for Iowa men’s cross-country news, updates, and analysis.

 

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