Junior Spencer Smith highlights his reaction to postponement of cross-country season

Spencer Smith reflects on his past athletic achievements and how he is staying in shape, despite the postponement of the cross country season.


Emily Wangen

The University of Iowa’s Spencer Smith attempts to pass Drake University’s Kevin Kelly 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. Smith finished in 7th place with a time of 18:25.3, while Kelly placed 14th overall.

Lauren Swanson, Sports Reporter

For junior runner Spencer Smith, the fall 2020 semester has not gone as he envisioned it would just a few months ago.

On Aug. 11, the Big Ten Conference postponed all fall sports to a later date — including cross country. The league amended its stance Sept. 16, allowing its 14 football teams to play a conference-only schedule, but all other sports remained postponed.

Smith is a native of Bettendorf, Iowa, and a graduate of Alleman high school in Rock Island, Illinois. As a Pioneer, Smith was a six-time all-conference and two-time all-state honoree. He was also a Western Big 6 conference champion in the 3,200 and 1,600 meter as a senior.

Smith’ success didn’t stop at the high-school level either.

As a freshman at Iowa, Smith posted season bests at the Hawkeye Invitational, Joe Piane Notre Dame Invitational, Big Ten Championships, and NCAA Midwest Regionals.

The following year, Smith was Iowa’s third finisher in the five-mile at the Notre Dame Invitational and the 8,000-meter at the Big Ten Championships.

This year has been dramatically different for Smith, however, the Big Ten’s decision to postpone fall sports didn’t shock him.

“I wasn’t really surprised because the COVID-19 numbers have been increasing,” Smith said. “It is still really important to keep training. We have to do the best we can do during these times.”

Recently, Smith had to make some adjustments to his training regimen to accommodate the competition-less fall season.

“It has been rough for me and a lot of the other guys,” Smith said. “We can’t show how much training we’ve been doing and the improvement we’ve made without the meets.”

While Smith has been doing some things on an individual basis, he still practices with his teammates — even if he hasn’t to the same extent that he would during a normal season.

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“We get to practice together a few days a week, but we can practice every day by ourselves if we’re not with teammates,” Smith said. “When we practice together, we follow the guidelines as we stretch, and we have started doing small races as a team. We also base mileage to build up endurance.”

When they do run together, the Hawkeyes try their best to keep things interesting and exciting.

“We sometimes like to run together as a team for fun,” Smith said. “Each person gets to choose where they go, and we make a route as we run.”

Cross country head coach Randy Hasenbank has also done his part to help keep the team’s chemistry up.

“I try to get the team together after practice to hang out,” Hasenbank said. “The practice times are team-building times.”

For Smith in particular, Hasenbank had high praise.

“He’s a racer who loves to race,” Hasenbank said. “He is the toughest competitor.”

On Sept. 23, the NCAA announced that men’s and women’s cross country could begin competing Jan. 23, with championships to be held March 15.

The NCAA has already reported that some of its membership has expressed concern on behalf of double-duty, track and field and cross country athletes, like Smith, that may get burnt out trying to compete in two sports at once.