ISU women’s distance runner displaying leadership, consistency


Kyle Heim/Iowa State Daily

Perez Rotich finishes 65th overall at the NCAA Cross-Country Championship in Terre Haute, Ind., on Nov. 22, 2014. 

Kyle Heim

Making the most out of opportunities was a common theme for the ISU women’s cross-country team in 2015, and distance runner Perez Rotich was no exception.

After redshirting their top runner from 2014 and a 2013 All-American, the Cyclones were in need of a leader to step up and fill the top roster spot on the team in the fall.

That leader was Perez Rotich, who quickly developed the traits needed to become the No. 1 runner for a team that was returning from a runner-up performance at the NCAA Championship in 2014.

Rotich’s consistent performances throughout the season, including a first-place finish at the Big 12 Championship and 12th-place finish at the NCAA Midwest Regional, helped her team reach its seventh straight NCAA Championship.

Rotich finished as the Cyclones’ top runner for the fifth time in the season at the national meet, placing 42nd overall among a field of more than 250 runners.

But it wasn’t Rotich’s on-field performances that impressed coach Andrea Grove-McDonough the most.

“[Rotich] has become an incredibly vocal leader [this year], in particular at practice and in the middle of the race,” Grove-McDonough said. “A coach came up to me from an opposing team at the [Big 12 cross-country meet] and said, ‘Hey, you know, your girl that won, I saw her talking to her teammate and encouraging her in the race.’ And that’s what she’s been doing a lot of.”

Grove-McDonough said Rotich would have been one of the last on her list to see become a leader on the team because Rotich had never been very vocal in previous seasons.

Erin Hooker, Rotich’s teammate, said Rotich would tell her during races to get going and pick up the pace.

“You always know that because you always know you need to beat the people in front of you, but to have a teammate actually say it, be vocal about it, sometimes it has to be done to make the push to do those things,” Hooker said. “So having her say those things during a race or during a workout has pushed me further than I would have been able to push myself.”

Rotich displayed strong performances in the 2014-15 season, but wasn’t always consistent. She placed 13th at both the Big 12 cross-country meet and regional meet, but finished 65th overall at the NCAA Championship.

During the 2015 indoor track season, Rotich set personal records in the 3,000-meter run, 5,000-meter run and the mile. She also finished 20th at the NCAA West Preliminaries during the outdoor track season, but was unable to qualify for nationals in both the indoor and outdoor seasons.

Rotich has already shown that her success during the 2015 cross-country season was no fluke. As the lone runner competing for the Cyclones in their indoor track and field season opener at the BU Season Opener on Dec. 5, 2015, Rotich finished seventh in the 5,000-meter run. She also set a personal record by more than 19 seconds among a field that included members of New Mexico’s 2015 national championship-winning cross-country team.

“We always knew Perez was a tremendous talent,” Grove-McDonough said. “It was just a question whether we could ever kind of find the right combination for her in terms of motivation, confidence, trying to gel coach [and] athlete.”