The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Iowa senior runner Kelli Tosic following mother’s footsteps, leaving her own legacy

Tosic is proud of her mother, former Hawkeye and Olympian Jenny Spangler, yet she looks forward to writing her own name in Hawkeye history.
Photo contributed by Jenny Spangler

Before running in the 1996 Summer Olympics, Jenny Spangler was a Hawkeye. Her daughter, senior distance runner Kelli Tosic, is now writing her own name in Hawkeye history.

As a sophomore, Spangler led the Hawkeye women’s cross country team to its first Big Ten Championship title. A few years later, she was inducted into the University of Iowa Women’s Track & Field Hall of Fame as well as the Road Runner’s Club of America Hall of Fame in 2007.

Although Spangler had incredible statistical success with the Black and Gold, she remembers the bonds she made with her teammates much more than the races themselves.

“People ask me about my times and things like that, but it’s more about the team experience,” Spangler said.

After Spangler’s college career, she transitioned to marathoning. She won the women’s marathon in the Olympic Trials with a 2:29:54 finish and was crowned the 1996 U.S. National Champion in the Marathon. She competed in the women’s marathon at the 1996 Atlanta Summer Games but ultimately dropped out along with 20 other Olympians.

In 2003, two years after Tosic was born, Spangler also won the masters section of the Chicago Marathon where she set an American Masters’ record with a time of 2:32:38.

With such a medal-spangled record, it’s no wonder Tosic became a runner.

“We’re a running family, so Kelli has been running all of her life,” Spangler said. “I even used to push her in the baby jogger when she was little.”

After graduating from the baby jogger, Tosic ran her first race at the age of four.

“At first, I was just running as a hobby,” Tosic said. “I would always do the random neighborhood 5Ks as a kid, and it was just a fun extra thing my family did.”

But Tosic still finds running to be fun. The only difference is that her hobby has now turned into a talent.

In middle school, Tosic began running for a humble cross country program. She even recalls wearing cotton T-shirts during races instead of jerseys.

As she advanced into Grayslake North High School in Grayslake, Illinois, Tosic started to break out and holds three school records to prove it. In addition, she was a four-time state qualifier and seven-time all-conference runner prior to her committing to Iowa.

Now a Hawkeye, Tosic seeks to leave her own legacy for the Iowa women’s cross country team.

“I have so much respect and admiration for my mom, so I am really proud to be where she was,” Tosic said. “But this is also about finding my own path.”

And Tosic has done just that over the last four years.

During her second year, Tosic was Iowa’s top finisher in its first three races of the season. As a junior, she led the Iowa women’s team in the 3,000-meter race.

Tosic was the third Iowa finisher at the 2022 Big Ten Championships and led the team in the 5,000-meter race at the 2023 Music City Challenge with a time of 16:57.07.

“While I am proud of myself for getting to this level of running, I am also proud in a family way,” Tosic added.

Tosic never felt pressure from her mother to become a runner but is honored to have followed in her footsteps. Iowa was not originally in Tosic’s plan, but she became instantly attracted to the school when she learned about the theatre arts program.

“My parents always encouraged me to do whatever I wanted to do,” Tosic said. “It just naturally worked out that I found both running and Iowa.”

During her time as a Hawkeye, Tosic was named Academic All-Big Ten and Big Ten Distinguished Scholar, as well as to the UI’s President’s List student and Dean’s List.

Her mother could not be prouder. Spangler is excited to watch her daughter leave her own legacy as a Hawkeye.

“When someone hears the name ‘Kelli Tosic,’ I hope they will remember she was determined and hardworking, but also that they just loved having her as a part of the team,” Spangler said.

Tosic fosters a similar mindset about what she will take away from Iowa cross country and track and field.

“At the end of the day, as long as we are having fun running and having fun with each other, that is what is most valuable,” Tosic said.

Iowa distance coach Shayla Houlihan has seen Tosic’s legacy form during the first month of her fourth year. Houlihan has been impressed by Tosic’s attitude and athleticism, even as she recovers from an injury.

“Through everything she’s been going through, she is still the most positive person I have ever met,” Houlihan said.

In the end, Tosic is looking ahead to her senior season with a sense of pride.

“Even though I am doing what my mom did, this is still my own journey,” Tosic said.

But that journey isn’t over.

Both Tosic’s family and coaches cannot wait to watch her race this year. They hope to watch her write her own name in Hawkeye history, right next to her mother’s.

“Obviously, she has great genetics, but honestly I think she has an even stronger mind,” Houlihan said. “I don’t think we can put any limits on her and what she can do.”

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About the Contributor
Mia Boulton
Mia Boulton, Sports Reporter
Mia Boulton is a freshman at the University of Iowa majoring in Journalism & Mass Communication, as well as exploring a possible double major in Sports Media. She works at the Daily Iowan as a sports reporter. Outside of the Daily Iowan, Mia has been a photographer for her hometown newspaper, The Record.