A pair of newcomers led the University of Iowa cross country teams at the season-opening Early Bird Invitational on Friday at the Ashton Cross Country Course.
Ian Eklin, a freshman from Plymouth, Minnesota, placed third in the men’s 6,000-meters. Eklin competed unattached in his first collegiate race, finishing four seconds behind the winner in 19:13.5.
Madison Waymire, a native of Grimes, Iowa, who transferred from the University of Missouri following her freshman season, placed fifth in the women’s 3,000 meters. Waymire crossed the finish in 10:29.2 to lead the Hawkeyes in her Iowa debut.
“Coach wanted us to stay relaxed and controlled during the race,” Waymire said. “It was go out there, get a race under your belt, feel good and feel strong. I feel like I did that today and it puts me in a good spot for the rest of the season.”
Eklin, one of three unattached freshman to finish in the top 20, finished 11 spots ahead of Iowa’s top scorers. Junior Ben Anderson and sophomore Michael Melchert placed 14th and 15th, respectively. Anderson finished in 19:30.2, just ahead of Melchert’s 19:30.3. It marked the third time in his career Anderson was the Hawkeyes’ top finisher, but he said after the race he is more concerned about the team finish than earning top individual honors.
“Today was work together for as long as possible and get ready for what is a long season,” said Anderson. “We’re training for November and we just want to feel good right now. I doesn’t matter for us who the top guy is. We want interchangeable parts, so whoever is on their game that day can be the top guy. If it’s me, so be it. If it’s not, so be it.”
The Hawkeye women had two freshman and two sophomores place in the top 20. Iowa totaled 65 points for a third-place finish. Top-ranked Iowa State won the meet with 17 points. The Hawkeye men finished in fourth place with 87 points.
“We were led by our youth today,” said UI head coach Layne Anderson. “We had some show tremendous potential, while others showed they didn’t have it today. We have confidence in everyone and the good news is it is a short week. We have a chance to put together better performances next Friday.”
The Hawkeyes return to the course Sept. 11, at the Illinois State Invitational in Normal, Illinois.
“We have to regroup,” said Anderson. “We can’t over analyze this. The season isn’t defined by one particular race unless it’s the last race of the season. This is our first meet. We know what we’re capable of. We saw that with some guys today. We have to get recovered and get back to training next week.”