Iowa cross-country runs alone, finishes for the team

Iowa men and women grind for their squads by setting personal records and chipping off seconds.

Senior+Daniel+Soto+warms+up+before+the+Hawkeye+Invitational+at+Ashton+Cross+Country+course+on+Friday%2C+Aug.+31%2C+2018.+
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Iowa cross-country runs alone, finishes for the team

Senior Daniel Soto warms up before the Hawkeye Invitational at Ashton Cross Country course on Friday, Aug. 31, 2018.

Senior Daniel Soto warms up before the Hawkeye Invitational at Ashton Cross Country course on Friday, Aug. 31, 2018.

Katie Goodale

Senior Daniel Soto warms up before the Hawkeye Invitational at Ashton Cross Country course on Friday, Aug. 31, 2018.

Katie Goodale

Katie Goodale

Senior Daniel Soto warms up before the Hawkeye Invitational at Ashton Cross Country course on Friday, Aug. 31, 2018.

Hanna Malzenski, Sports Reporter

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They train together, travel together, and some even live together, but as the Iowa harriers get set at the starting line, their mindsets narrow to themselves, the course, and the pace of the race.

Once the race begins, it is solely on the runner to perform. As the clock ticks, harriers cross the finish line. The first five finishing places add up to the overall team score, with the lower the score, the better. The outcome for the team is only as good as the strides of five individuals.

“The beauty of cross-country is that, at its very core, it is an individual sport,” senior Daniel Soto said.

The individualism is especially highlighted when harriers break their personal records.

Of the four races this season, Soto finished two of them with personal-best times. The senior ran the 8,000 meters at the Woody Greeno in 24:45.5 and the 5 miles at the Notre Dame Invitational in 24:16.19. He has been Iowa’s first finisher in all but one race this season.

Soto is not the only one setting personal records. During the Pre-Nationals hosted by Wisconsin, seven Hawkeye men ran their fastest 8,000 meters.

Following Nathan Mylenek and Soto in the first two scoring positions, Karson Sommer was Iowa’s third in 25:08.2, Bailey Hesse-Withbroe was fourth in 25:19.0, and Brandon Cooley closed out the top five in 25:25.9. The other four personal records were Daniel Murphy (25:27.5), Noah Healy (25:39.5), Spencer Smith (25:51.2), and Jeff Roberts (26:12.1).

“Everyone is competing individually, but at the same time, your individual performance affects the team in a very direct way,” Soto said.

RELATED: Iowa cross-country’s second finishers become No. 1 after competing at Bradley and Wisconsin

The personal-record times resulted in Iowa finishing in the top half among highly ranked teams at the Pre-Nationals.

But running personal bests doesn’t mean satisfaction.

Andrea Shine broke her 5,000-meter time by six seconds at 17:10.29 at the Notre Dame Invitational in September. Despite the achievement, the senior was far from content after the race.

The beauty of cross-country is that, at its very core, it is an individual sport.”

— Daniel Soto

“I still think that there is a next level of potential that I am ready to hit,” she said.

This push for improvement and knocking time off their personal bests only benefits the teams as a whole, and that is reflected in Hawkeye veterans such as Soto and Shine. as well as he Iowa newbies.

Megan Schott, who transferred from Iowa State for the 2018 season, mirrors Hawkeye cross-country’s construction mindset.

“I was excited to be a part of building a team and making really cool improvements in the program, just with me and a lot of the incoming girls,” Schott said.

With the scope set on individual improvements, the only thing left to do is carry that responsibility to the starting line.

“You kind of understand what you need to do and what should be done,” Soto said. “The week of the race, the night before the race, the morning of the race, you get what you need to do done in order to be successful.”