Freshmen-harrier trio embraces new cross country season

Iowa’s three freshmen, all from out of state, are determined to make an impact on a Hawkeye roster full of upperclassmen.

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David Harmantas

Iowa’s Jeff Roberts sprints to the finish line at the Hawkeye Invitational Cross Country meet on Friday, September 1, 2017. (David Harmantas/The Daily Iowan)

Hanna Malzenski, [email protected]

In years past, Iowa’s cross-country team has boasted a young, freshman-heavy roster. This season is a bit different; the Hawkeyes have a strong upperclassman unit.

However, Iowa’s freshmen didn’t back down from the challenge in their opening meet.

Noah Healy, Evan Jacobs, and Jeff Roberts made their Iowa débuts at the Hawkeye Invitational on Sept. 1.

In the 6K, Healy finishing 54th (19.27.4), Roberts placed 59th (19:38.1), and Jacobs rounded out the trio at 66th (20:35.4).

For all three, competing at the Ashton Cross-Country Course was a learning experience that allowed them to get a taste of the competition, pace, and challenges in college cross-country.

“It was very different,” Roberts said. “Wearing a different uniform and running with a different group of guys. We have a lot of talent on this team, so they always push the pace. It was fun.”

In high school, none of the three runners ran any race longer than a 5K, so there was a challenge of hanging on for the last 1,000 meters while finishing strong.

After the Hawkeye Invitational, head coach Randy Hasenbank discussed the role for the freshmen this season; he views 2017 as a learning opportunity rather than expecting the first-year Hawkeyes to score every meet.

“We want to give the freshmen the opportunity to learn the system, be consistent with their training, and improve over time,” he said.

RELATED: Harriers rewrite record books in opener

Among the first-year Hawkeyes, not one is from Iowa.

Healy hails from Frankfort, Illinois, and attended Lincoln-Way East for his early cross country career. While competing for the Griffins, he was a four-time All-Sectional in cross-country, four-time All-Conference, and All-State his senior year. He holds numerous records and awards in both track and cross-country.

“It’s a great atmosphere among the guys [at Iowa],” Healy said. “I feel at home here with them.”

For him, the biggest adjustment from high school came in the way he trained.

“In high school, we would run usually 40 miles a week. But now, it’s 50, 60, 70 miles, which will only increase every year that I run here,” he said. “The workouts are also faster than high school.”

Healy isn’t the only newcomer from Illinois.

Jacobs, from Sycamore, Illinois, was an All-Stater, 2017 Sectional winner, placed second in the 800 at the Illinois state track meet, and holds several records and awards for the Spartans in both track and cross-country.

Right now, one of Jacobs’ biggest priorities is staying healthy for the 2017 season.

“I want to make sure that I don’t over-do it,” he said. “In high school, I would push through injuries. Here [Iowa] it’s important to listen to my body and pay attention to the small things like eating right and getting enough sleep.”

Jacobs not only looks to the older runners for cross-country experience but also for academic and time-management skills while balancing school work and practice.

The final freshman, Roberts, attended Pascack Valley high school in River Vale, New Jersey.

Before coming to the Midwest, Roberts was All-Conference and All-County his senior year, All-State, and he holds numerous standings for track and cross country.

Just like Healy, Roberts noted Iowa’s culture.

“I feel like it’s more of a team sport in college than it is in high school,” he said. “We are very serious about what we do, but it’s a lot of fun at the same time.”

The mileage demands of college running have been an adjustment, but Roberts is looking forward to working his way toward an 8K.

Up next for the Hawkeyes is the Woody Greeno Invitational. The meet will take place in Lincoln, Nebraska, on Saturday (the start time has yet to be announced).

Both Healy and Roberts are expected to compete. Jacobs is questionable because of a possible knee injury

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