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 cross country second-years Jalyssa Blazek, Aleah Tenpas have breakout season despite first-year setbacks

Blazek and Tenpas are stepping up as leaders on the course for the women’s team.
Theodore Retsinas
The Iowa women’s cross country team competes during the Hawkeye invite at Ashton Cross-Country Course in Iowa City, on Friday, Sep. 1, 2023. The Iowa men’s team won the invite with the women coming in second second.

Second-year cross country and track and field distance runners Jalyssa Blazek and Aleah Tenpas experienced their own respective obstacles throughout their freshmen year. The duo vowed to themselves they would come back faster and stronger than ever — and that is exactly what they are doing.

Blazek and Tenpas are having breakout seasons so far with strong performances in the Hawkeye Invitational and the Badger Classic, where they ran together and finished just 1.2 seconds apart in the 5,000-meter race.

“Our goal is to always pull each other along, which will hopefully allow [the team] to finish higher,” Tenpas said.

Blazek and Tenpas weren’t always top finishers on the Iowa women’s roster. Their first year brought different challenges they were forced to overcome.

For Blazek, the obstacle was an injury.

“I was sitting in the top seven last year before my injury,” Blazek recalled. “Unfortunately, I didn’t make it to the end of the cross country season.”

Blazek couldn’t run in the 2022 Big Ten Championships, where she would have potentially improved the Hawkeye women’s team finish. The Iowa women finished last of 14 teams at the meet.

While recovering from her injury, Blazek was busy goal-setting for the 2023-24 season.

“I put the expectation on myself to get back to where I was and to be an important member of the team,” Blazek said.

Blazek has achieved her goal of contributing to the team as she has been the second Hawkeye woman to cross the finish line in both races this season. She also earned a new personal best in the 4,000-meter race at the Hawkeye Invitational with a time of 14:34.6.

As for Tenpas, she wasn’t pleased with her results in her first season because of the amount of potential she still had in her.

“Last season was disappointing for me. I didn’t apply myself as much as I wanted,” Tenpas reflected.

As a first-year, Tenpas was Iowa’s third finisher at the Illini Open and ran her season-best 1,500-meter race at the outdoor Jim Duncan Track Invite. She did not compete in indoor track.

“At the end of track season, I stepped back and reflected a little bit. I just asked myself what I needed to do to improve,” Tenpas said.

Tenpas kept her promise to herself to work hard in the offseason — and it’s beginning to pay off.

“If anyone were to have a breakout season, it would be [Tenpas],” Blazek said. “When no one was looking, she was putting in that hard work. She’s got a lot more confidence, and she’s always ready to go.”

Tenpas has earned personal bests in both meets so far this year. At the Hawkeye Invitational, she finished the 4,000-meter race with a time of 14:36.0. In the Badger Classic, Tenpas ran 6,000-meters in 19:32.3.

Blazek and Tenpas are experiencing their breakout season together, which is benefitting the team. Although this duet may be young, they are already establishing themselves as leaders.

“We are all looking to help each other improve,” Blazek said. “We are trying to push each other more than we ever have before.”

Tenpas indicated the environment in practice is helping to build the team culture. She is hopeful this will create success on the course.

“Our team does a really good job of running together during workouts and bringing each other along,” Tenpas said. “That’s really going to translate to the next couple of big races.”

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About the Contributors
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.
Theodore Retsinas
Theodore Retsinas, Photojournalist
Theodore Retsinas is a freshman at the University of Iowa studying Neuroscience.