Hawk cross-country will get better

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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Hawk cross-country will get better

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)

Adam Hensley, [email protected]

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The Iowa men’s cross-country team will be one of the most improved teams in the next few years, and fans should be very optimistic regarding next season.

The Hawkeyes had an up-and-down run this season. They finished as low as last and as high as second in their six meets but never had back-to-back meets with similar placing.

This can be taken in two different ways. Either the team could not perform up to standards consistently or the team showed resilience with the ability to bounce back.

Those who think that Iowa won’t improve and will not meet standards, think again.

Let’s look at the first meet of the season, the Hawkeye Early Bird Invitational. Iowa finished fourth out of four teams, scoring 87 points (Iowa State, which won the meet, scored only 23). No runner finished in the top 10, and Iowa’s top five runners finished between 12th and 23rd. However, these statistics are deceiving.

Iowa had three freshmen — Ian Eklin, Bailey Hesse-Withbroe, and Daniel Soto — who ran unattached (meaning they raced, but their places did not count toward Iowa’s score).

Eklin placed third, beating Iowa State’s Nathan Rodriguez by three spots. Rodriguez happened to be Iowa State’s best runner in the Midwest Regional.

Hesse-Withbroe and Soto finished 17th and 18th. If all three freshmen ran attached and their scores counted for the Hawkeyes, Iowa would not have finished last to start the season.

Iowa went on to place second at the Illinois State Invitational. Illinois State won the meet, but Iowa was only one point behind it. The Redbirds are better than people give them credit for; they placed second in the Missouri Valley meet, and Iowa proved that early on in the season, it could hang with a team that is one of the best in its conference.

Iowa followed up this successful meet with a disappointing finish at the Notre Dame Invitational. The Hawkeyes finished last amng 20 teams.

However, it was the toughest competition Iowa faced all year; 13 of the 19 teams Iowa ran against were ranked or received votes to be ranked at some point this season. In no other meet this season did the Hawks face that sort of competition.

At the Bradley Pink Classic, Iowa finished third. Michael Melchert, Anthony Gregorio, and Ben Anderson all ran personal bests (at the time) in route to finishing third, 10th, and 11th. It was a solid meet and arguably the best this season in terms of working as a unit.

Iowa’s two championship meets — Big Tens and Midwest Regional — resulted in 10th (of 12) and 15th (of 26) teams. But each of those championships featured immense talent.

In the Big Ten, eight teams have been ranked or received votes to be in the polls throughout the season — the most of any conference. Facing that competition, Melchert ran the 10th-fastest time in school history.

Iowa’s Midwest region includes Oklahoma State (ranked as high as fourth this year), as well as four other teams ranked in the top 30.

While Iowa faced tough competition over the course of the season, you can’t blame its performance simply on that. Melchert proved that he can run with some of the top runners. However, the rest of the team is not there.

But that was this season.

Iowa has the potential to be a very strong cross-country team in the next few years. The “big three” of Melchert, Anderson, and Gregorio all return next season.

The freshmen trio of Eklin, Soto, and Hesse-Withbroe gained valuable experience this season. They ran in every meet in 2015 and will train with the team over the summer.

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