Iowa cross-country squads head to the Big Ten Championships

Iowa cross-country will head to Indiana to compete in the Big Ten Championships Oct. 29.

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The women runners start the 3k Hawkeye Earlybird Invitational at Ashton Cross Country on Friday, Sept. 2, 2016. Iowa’s Tess Wiberding finished first with a time of 10:20.4 to help the team take first. (The Daily Iowan/File photo)

The Big Ten cross-country meets are here, hosted by Indiana on Oct. 29 in Bloomington. The men will begin their 8,000-meter race at 10:45 a.m. (CDT), and the women will run their 6,000-meter race at 10:45 a.m.

The Hawkeyes will face the toughest competition they have seen so far. For both of Iowa’s teams, of the 13 squads they’re up against, 10 are regionally ranked.

In the women’s Midwest Region, there are Minnesota (No. 1) and Northwestern (No. 4). The Great Lakes Region has the most ranked teams with Michigan (No. 1), Wisconsin (No. 2), Michigan St. (No. 3), Indiana (No. 5), Ohio St. (No. 6), and Purdue (No. 9). From the Mid-Atlantic Region, there are Penn State (No. 1) and Maryland (No. 10).

The women could potentially keep up with this aggressive field. Following their performance at the Bradley Pink Invitational, the Iowa women re-entered the regional rankings at No. 13. Junior Andrea Shine placed second with a personal-best time at 20:47.3 for the 6,000-meter.

On the men’s side, in the Midwest Region are Minnesota (No. 2), Illinois (No. 4), and Nebraska (No. 8). The Great Lakes Region includes the most ranked teams with Michigan (No. 1), Michigan St. (No. 2), Purdue (No. 3), Wisconsin (No. 5), and Indiana (No. 6). The Mid-Atlantic Region has Penn State (No. 5) and Rutgers (No. 14).

Despite the tough competition, the men are expected to hold their own. Iowa stands at No. 5 in the Midwest Region, the highest ranking for the Hawkeyes since 2010.

RELATED: Consistency reigns for Iowa cross-country

This spot was earned after the men dominated the 8,000 meters at the Bradley Pink Invitational, placing first with 84 points. Sophomore Nathan Mylenek finished first with a personal best of 24:26.2.

He has been a consistent top performer and heads into the Big Ten meet looking for a massive improvement compared with the 2016 championship meet.

“Last year, I was in the bottom 15 and had a really bad race,” said the young Hawkeye. “This year, I’m looking forward to hopefully running in the top 20 for most of the race, and then we’ll see if I can stay there.”

When asked how he was feeling, Mylenek described what many athletes have experienced before a big performance.

“Last week, I actually had trouble sleeping,” he said. “But this week is much better, my legs are feeling good, and I’m really looking forward to the race.”

The meet has been on Iowa’s radar since the start of the season, along with expectations. Junior Ian Eklin knows the men’s team can do much better than last season’s last-place finish.

“We want to be in the top seven,” he said. “Last season, we knew we could beat some of those teams that were in those positions.”

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