Freshmen break out as stars for Iowa cross country

Three Hawkeye freshmen showcased their talents last week at the Big Ten’s cross country championships.


Photo of Kelli Tosic. Contributed.

Lauren Swanson, Sports Reporter

A select number of Hawkeye runners competed at the Big Ten Cross Country Championships in Shelbyville, Indiana, on Jan. 30. The majority of the Hawkeyes that participated in the meet were freshmen, making their debut in the Black and Gold.

But the novelty of the collegiate cross country world didn’t hinder a break out performance by the star studded freshman roster.

In the women’s 6,000-meter, freshman Kelli Tosic set a new career-best and placed 61st overall with a time of 22:06. To prepare, Tosic said the team did a few less-strenuous speed workouts and the night before she made sure to prepare some of her go-to carb — rise.

“The week leading up to the meet, our coach didn’t want us to do anything overly strenuous,” Tosic said. “With the race coming up, we still wanted to get the legs moving and bring some speed back.”

This spring, Tosic’s training schedule isn’t just cross country meets. She’s also training for the indoor track and field season that overlaps with the cross country schedule in 2020-21 because of COVID-19. The workouts and training goals differ, requiring her to compose a workout schedule with a mix of speed and distance training.

“For cross country, you’re training yourself to hold a faster pace for a long period of time. Whereas in track, you’re trying to work on that faster turnover, that fast twitch and just prepare for an all-out race,” she said. “There is definitely a balance of doing speed-specific prep versus endurance-specific prep and mixing those.”

In the men’s 8,000-meter, freshman Aidan King paced the Hawkeyes and placed 44th with a time of 25:20. Not far behind King was freshman Max Murphy, who placed 53rd overall and finished with a time of 25:40.

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Unfortunately for Murphy, the start of his collegiate running career didn’t kick off exactly as he had envisioned, as he lost his shoe in the race’s first 200 meters.

“I fell down and my shoe came like half off,” Murphy said. “Then, I just kind of had a split second to decide whether to stop or put the shoe back on. I figured that would take too long, so I ended up just taking the shoe off, and just kept running.”

King also suffered through an adverse start to the race – though his experience was not the same as Murphy’s.

“We both got tangled up with some of the Purdue guys,” King said. “I fell down, smashed my head, [Murphy] got spiked super hard and was bleeding. It was kind of a disaster.”

Despite the unusual start to the race, King and Murphy both felt like they were fully prepared to succeed last Saturday.

“I was absolutely prepared, and the credit goes to Coach Hasenbank,” King said. “He has done a ton to get all of us, especially the freshmen, acclimated and really kind of instill in us that even though we’re freshmen, we can still go out there and compete.”

Murphy was also pleased with his performance, especially after losing his shoe early on.

“I think I was really prepared, and I was definitely ready to run fast,” Murphy said. “The race didn’t go as I wanted, mostly because of falling down and losing a shoe, but that kind of stuff was out of my control. Given the circumstance, I thought it was a pretty decent race, and a good learning experience for the future years.”