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 season on the line in NCAA Midwest Regional

The Hawkeye cross country program will need to be active to avoid the season’s end at the regional race.
Ayrton Breckenridge
Iowa’s Amber Aesoph competes in the 800-meter run during day three of the 2023 Drake Relays at Drake Stadium in Des Moines on Saturday, April 29, 2023. Aesoph finished third with a time of 2:08.93.

The Iowa men’s and women’s cross country teams will travel to Stillwater, Oklahoma, for the NCAA Midwest Regional on Nov. 10 with the season on the line.

If the Hawkeyes do not place first or second in the Midwest region, NCAA rules say they will not be awarded automatic qualification to the NCAA Championships in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Nov. 18. 

As 18 teams automatically qualify, two from each of the nine regions, 13 qualifying spots remain, the only other way to qualify as a team is to be selected at-large to fill these spots. This distinction is also based off the team’s performance at the regional meet. Thirty-one total teams make the final.

To qualify as an individual, the first four finishers who do not compete for a qualifying team will advance. 

Two at-large individual selections are chosen by placing next at the top of the regional but missing automatic qualifying.

Despite all of the rules that raise the pressure to succeed, Iowa fourth-year distance runner Amber Aesoph refuses to be intimidated by the threat of a potential season-ending race.

“We see this race as an opportunity to put ourselves out there and see what we can do,” Aesoph said. 

Last year, the Iowa women finished 14th out of 33 teams and failed to qualify for the NCAA Championship meet. 

To achieve a different outcome this time around, Aesoph said the team will have to have a quicker start and avoid getting comfortable in the middle of the pack. 

“We need to get out harder and actually put ourselves in the race,” Aesoph said. “If we get aggressive and give ourselves a chance to compete, we will have better results.”

In their last meet out, the Hawkeye women placed last at the Big Ten Championships in Madison, Wisconsin. 

Now, Aesoph and the rest of the women’s squad hope to use the NCAA Midwest Regional race as a form of redemption — showing themselves what they are truly capable of. 

Iowa assistant distance coach Shayla Houlihan believes using new race tactics will provide an outcome that the team is worthy of.  

“We will be looking for a more aggressive start at regionals to set us up for a position in the field that we are more deserving of,” Houlihan said. 

The unranked Hawkeyes look to shock the Midwest region, which is now led by No. 1 Oklahoma State, by leaving everything on the course. 

“I am going to be treating it like the last cross country meet I will ever run,” Aesoph said. “At this point, I might as well take a risk and see what happens.”

On the flip side

The Hawkeye men’s team is going into the race ranked 15th, but second-year distance runner Brayden Burnett stresses the importance of realizing that “rankings are just rankings” and that no placement is guaranteed. 

“Not a lot of us look into [rankings] all that much,” Burnett said. “Our mentality is to know the teams we are around, and we can’t knock them until we beat them head-to-head.”

The Hawkeyes have been led this season by third-year Max Murphy while the rest of the scoring squad is relatively interchangeable. 

The Iowa men will also run an extra 2,000 meters than their previous races. For three out of the seven competing Hawkeyes, this will be their first time to ever run a 10,000-meter race. 

“I think we’ve proven to be in good shape, and it’s time to show it,” Burnett said. “I actually think those extra 2,000 meters will help in the long run.”

On top of the added distance, the men’s squad will also be attempting to hold their own against the stiffest competition of the season, led again by No. 1 Oklahoma State. 

“It’s like that old saying: ‘To be the best, you have to surround yourself with the best,’” Burnett said. “We need to remember that we’re in good company, and we deserve to be where we are.”

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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.
Ayrton Breckenridge
Ayrton Breckenridge, Managing Visuals Editor
Ayrton Breckenridge is the Managing Visuals Editor at The Daily Iowan. He is a senior at the University of Iowa majoring in journalism and cinema. This is his fourth year working for the DI.