Cross country ready to make a statement at Pre-Nationals

The Hawkeyes travel to Terre Haute, Indiana, for the team's last meet before Big Ten Championships.

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Jenna Galligan

Iowa’s Nathan Mylenek picks up speed as he approaches the finish line of the men’s 6k during the Hawkeye Invitational at Ashton Cross Country Course on Friday, September 6, 2019. Mylenek finishd second with a time of 18:16.0. The Hawkeyes defeated six other teams to finish first overall for both men’s and women’s races.

Ben Palya, Sports Reporter

For the first time in 10 years, the Hawkeyes received consideration in the men’s national cross rankings. The recognition is exciting to be sure, but for senior Nate Mylenek, the work has just begun.

“It’s pretty cool but it’s not enough for me,” Mylenek said. “Just receiving one vote, it’s awesome to not have that done since 2009, I’m not [going to] deny that, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s not enough for me.”

The men’s cross country team is back on the national radar, and a big race this weekend could propel the team into a position to become nationally ranked. With a senior-heavy class, the foundation is there for the team to have a strong finish the rest of the season.

“We’ve got five guys that are seniors on the cross country roster,” head coach Randy Hassenbank said. “Those guys were all part of the team that were last in the Big Ten their freshman year, and several of them ran on that squad and competed, and it’s great to see that they have improved.”

The Hawkeyes are coming off an impressive meet at Notre Dame where the men’s team finished 12th overall and knocked off No. 13 Colorado State and No. 18 Wyoming. The meet also saw six athletes run personal bests in the five-mile run, with Mylenek cutting a significant 32 seconds off his time.

In contrary to the men’s team, the women’s side has a young roster made up almost entirely of underclassmen.

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The team is looking to bounce back in a big way this weekend after struggling at Notre Dame, which can be a hurdle for a young team. Luckily for Iowa, they have the leadership to power through onto the next meet.

“The biggest thing is reminding the girls that they can throw an elbow when they need to, and they deserve to be up there just as much as that girl that’s pushing them,” Megan Schott said. “I think it’s really about practicing confidence.”

The competing teams will be divided into two different divisions to even out the field, but Iowa will not know its exact competition until race day on Saturday. Both teams are looking forward to racing again this weekend, no matter the circumstances.

“This time, we’ve got a much longer stretch to establish ourselves, so it’s no different than any other race we’ve ran,” Mylenek said.

For the women, it will be their first time navigating the 6k this season. Although the team is younger and less experienced in racing at the longer distance, the team has confidence in its ability to run the race.

“I think it’s an advantage to us in a lot of ways I think we’re a group of tough, gritty girls,” Schott said. “Even just in the last race, the number of girls that we passed in the last mile was insane.”

The meet begins at 10 a.m. Saturday for the women and 10:35 a.m. for the men in Terre Haute, Indiana.  

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