Cyclones build confidence from Roy Griak Invitational


Photo: Dani Harris/Iowa State Daily

Dani Stack and Betsy Saina represented the Cyclones in the 10,000-meter run June 8 on the opening night of the 2011 NCAA Track and Field Championships. Stack and Saina led the pack for most of the race. The two Cyclones tag-teamed and pushed each other through the race.

Emily Hejlik

First- and second-place finishes at the Roy Griak Invitational weren’t the only takeaways for the ISU cross-country squads from this past weekend.

“This meet was very important to me; it helps me gain more confidence for the next race,” said senior Betsy Saina. “The race was also important for the team to look at where we are and what efforts we still need to put in.”

Saina, who had not competed since this summer’s African Games, pushed her team to a first-place finish.

Close behind was fellow senior Meaghan Nelson, who debuted her season to a second-place finish in the 5,000-meter event. The race was Nelson’s first since finishing 12th in the Olympic Trials 10,000 meters in June.

Along with confidence being a key component gained from the meet, it also proved to be a gauge of the team’s progress.

“As a team, we know where everyone is so it helps us know how much we still need to do to accomplish our mission for the season,” Saina said. “We are in a good position now — we haven’t done many workouts and have been working on our endurance, so yesterday’s race was a great start for us.”

Other individuals stepped up for the team as well.

Samantha Bluske and Katy Moen had their best races as Cyclones, which reflected what they have been able to do in training. For the men, Edwin Serem has overcome injuries to produce his best race as a Cyclone as well, even though he is not 100-percent fit.

Coach Travis Hartke took a few positives away from the meet for both the men’s and women’s sides, with some lineup questions being answered as well.

“The women are in a really good spot, and I think we learned that we were pretty strong top group after the race,” Hartke said. “There still are roles that need to be filled with our [No.] 6-7-8 runners. On the men’s side, we have a lot of depth but there are quite a few runners that will need to improve individually if we are going to be successful at the end of the season.”

The men were led by junior Falko Zauber’s sixth-place finish in the 8,000-meter race, helping the squad obtain second-place overall.

Zauber described the team’s success as “bittersweet” with such a good individual output. He knows the team could have done better.

“It was hard coming in second, the meet was a bit less competitive than last year and we really wanted to beat Minnesota and come in first,” Zauber said. “Many of our top runners did not have a good performance, and I think we learned a lot about some of our other guys who stepped up to get us as close to winning as we could.”

In his second year of running cross-country, Zauber remembers how tough the Roy Griak Invitational was a season ago. He was more than happy to be in the top 10 individually.

“The entire race I thought that I was somewhere between 10th and 15th place, so I was really surprised to be sixth overall,” Zauber said. “I’m more happy about the fact it felt so good running sub 25 minutes. The result positively increased my self-confidence.”

With seven of the men among the top 40, the Cyclones know they have something to build off of.

“We’re not exactly where we want to be but we are very close,” Zauber said. “We made some mistakes in this race and we will have to learn from them to get better every week.”