Freshman cross country star Lea Kralovetz on upcoming season, her faith, and adjusting to college

Kralovetz has started strong with the help of her teammates and coach.


Emily Wangen

The University of Iowa women’s cross country team huddles up prior to the 4000 meter race during the Hawkeye Invitational on Friday, Sept. 6, 2019 at the Ashton Cross Country Course. The Hawkeyes prevailed over six other teams to win first place overall in the men’s and women’s races. Iowa State University runner Abby Caldwell finished in first place with a time of 14:02.

Ben Palya, Sports Reporter

With a major difference in training and a busier schedule all around, adjusting to college as a student can be particularly difficult as a first year. However, freshman cross country runner Leah Kralovetz has taken it all in stride. 

Kralovetz recently posted a fifth-place finish at the Hawkeye Invitational — good for second on the team and only three seconds off of Iowa’s top runner, Megan Schott. Going into the Hawkeye Invitational, she had been training with some of the team’s top runners. 

It is clear that Kralovetz is going to be leaned on heavily this season as a freshman, something that she is ready to take on.

“It feels amazing. It’s so nice to have such a supportive team and family backing me up,” she said.

Kralovetz has been an athlete her entire life, playing soccer, basketball, and volleyball. Despite being involved in many different sports as a child, she did not start competitively running until recently. 

“I started running cross country my sophomore year but did not really start seriously training until my junior year,” she said.

For Kralovetz it came naturally, as one year on she captured the Wisconsin High School State Cross Country title. 

“That was a feeling that was almost hard to describe. It was so amazing hugging my family and my coaches,” she said.

She was contacted by Wisconsin the day after her state title, but Kralovetz already had decided Iowa was the right school and program for her. She was heavily recruited and also received offers from Minnesota, Kansas, and Illinois State.

Kralovetz first ended up on Iowa’s radar after running a two mile race in 11 minutes. Iowa’s head coach Randy Hassenbank then reached out to her high school coach.

RELATED: Hawkeyes prepare for new season with the Hawkeye Invitational

It is also clear that her high school coach was a major inspiration for her and helped her get to where she is today. 

“You could tell that he cared about me as a person, and he’s the one who saw this gift that God gave me, and he wanted me to use it to the best of my ability, not for him,” Kralovetz said.

Running at Iowa has been a very different experience for Kralovetz.

“Here I have a solid team to run with on my workouts, and it really helps me and makes it more enjoyable,” she said. “Everyone has so much positive energy and is so passionate about running, so it helps everyone start on a positive note and be excited.”

Through preseason and her first few weeks of training, Kralovetz has connected with some of her teammates through her faith such as Anna Hosteler and Elyse Prescott.

“Leah has been a wonderful teammate and is such a sweet and kind hearted girl,” Hosteller said. “She has so much ability and I think she is going to accomplish amazing things, and it’s awesome to see how she incorporates her faith into her running.”

Faith has been a guiding force for Kralovetz in her athletics. 

“My faith has been the motor to all my successes and even the drawbacks that have come along,” Kralovetz said. 

With so much talent and a unique drive, Kralovetz seems poised to break out as a freshman. 

“She’s a big talent, and she’s going to make a difference for us immediately. She’s got a bright future,” Hassenbank said. 

With a big performance already in the Hawkeye Invitational, expectations will be high for the freshman from Wisconsin. Kralovetz and the rest of the Hawkeyes will have another week to prepare before their next meet in Lincoln.