Iowa women’s cross country musters up motivation amid pandemic

Hawkeye runners reflect on how they’ve stayed motivated despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.


Jenna Galligan

Iowa runner Mary Arch hugs her teammate after the 3000m run at the Musco Twilight Invitational at the Cretzmeyer Track on Saturday, April 13, 2019. Arch finished fourth with a time of 10:23:58. The Hawkeyes won 10 events during the meet. The Iowa women ranked first with 183 points, and the men ranked fifth 76 points.

Lauren Swanson, Sports Reporter

Since the Big Ten Conference made the decision on Aug. 11 to postpone all fall sports, Iowa’s cross country team has had to adjust. Different training regimens, assigned by head coach Randy Hasenbank, are only a small part of the challenge the team faces going forward.

The athletes themselves are still in transition mode.

“I have been coming back from some injuries, so I have been focusing on getting my mileage up,” freshman Claire Edmonson said. “Running with my teammates has definitely motivated me this fall to keep getting better and help elevate each other to the next level.”

That team spirit and camaraderie has served as motivation despite the season’s postponement.

“The atmosphere and drive of my teammates is what motivates me to stay on the team,” Edmonson said. “Being around the team has helped me to stay positive the past couple months. We encourage each other throughout practices and keep in touch through messages and checking in on how school is going. Being around everyone and working hard together motivates us to become better for the team.”

While senior Mary Arch said she likewise supported by her team, she also draws inspiration from less earthly sources.

“I would say my faith in Jesus Christ is my main motivation for anything I do in life, not just my sport,” Arch said. “Even if I have a bad workout or practice, I know my identity isn’t in how fast I run, but Jesus and his work on the cross. He is my foundation and anchor of my life.”

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While the unprecedented circumstances of COVID-19 have not made for a smooth and normal season for cross country, a strong team foundation has helped the runners get past their disappointment and look to new horizons.

“We all have individual and specific goals,” Arch said. “An overarching goal for us right now is to be as fit as we can be and use this time to grow, challenge, and push ourselves even without the competition.”

Thanks to the culture within the program, many runners have had the opportunity to lean on their teammates in times of difficulty. In turn, those that might have needed to be picked up before, may turn into the ones giving pick-me-ups.

“The challenge is to get better daily and improve not only my running, but my relationship with others,” Arch said. “I love every single girl on the team, we are a family.”

On Sept. 23, the NCAA Division I Board of Directors approved a Jan. 23 start date for cross country to run in the spring. The NCAA Cross Country Championships are set for March 15. However, it is unclear at this time whether or not Iowa’s cross country team will compete in the spring as many of the runners also compete on the Hawkeyes’ track and field team.

According to the NCAA, a group of its member institutions have already expressed concern about conducting both cross country and track and field in the spring.