Courtesy: Idaho Athletic Media Relations
Hannah Kiser sprints to a win at the Dellinger Invitational on Oct. 1
Another step forward
Courtesy: Idaho Athletic Media Relations
          Release: 11/20/2011
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MOSCOW, Idaho – University of Idaho director of track and field/cross country Wayne Phipps has given up on predictions for his standout sophomore runner – every significant accomplishment has been followed by another greater one.

On Monday, Kiser will make the next huge leap in her young Vandal career when she competes at the NCAA Cross Country Championships at Terre Haute, Ind. Her qualification is the cherry on top of an already-stellar season that includes a second-consecutive Western Athletic Conference team title, a second First-Team All-WAC honor, a first career U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association All-Region award and a four-meet unbeaten streak against some of the best competition in the nation.

“It’s been amazing to watch,” Phipps said. “She was so impressive in our preseason practices, then she went and ran so well at the Washington and Oregon meets.

“After watching Hannah for the last two years, you really just lose the surprise element when she accomplishes each thing. She works so hard, she’s so competitive and she puts herself in the best situation possible to have a great race.”

Kiser said the anticipation alone nearly drove her crazy after her 18th-place finish at the NCAA West Region Championships on Saturday, Nov. 12. She had to wait until Sunday afternoon to get the all-important call, and she was on pins and needles every second until then.

“I didn’t sleep the night after the race, and I pretty much couldn’t sleep for the first couple nights after I found out because I was so excited,” Kiser said. “Every time I put on my running shoes, I get even more excited, and I’m looking forward to taking all of this and turning it into running energy.”

Phipps said he could see Kiser getting a little too amped up at times during practice, and that the key on Monday will be to harness the emotions and adrenaline and run a controlled race in such a high-energy setting.

“It’s so easy in this race to get caught up in the excitement, go out too fast and forget your game plan,” Phipps said. “When she’s had her best races, she’s gone out under control in the first half, then really moved up in the second, and we’re going to go back to that for this race.”

Her at-large selection makes her the first Vandal to qualify for the NCAA meet in cross country since 2004, when the Idaho team qualified and finished 25th. Despite it being her first foray into the cross country championship meet, Kiser might as well be a seasoned veteran. Running in the ultra-competitive West Region helps, as does her experience as an NCAA First Round qualifier in the outdoor 5000m last year as a true freshman.

Kiser said that in May, she was just happy to earn the spot in the NCAA meet at the end of the outdoor track season, but she’ll have a very different approach on Monday when she toes the line at the national meet.

“I remember how nervous I was, but I’m more excited than nervous this time,” Kiser said. “My thoughts last year were, ‘I’m probably not going to qualify (for the finals), but I could if I did something amazing.’ Going in this year, I’m going in with the mindset that I just have to do exactly what I’ve been doing all year. I feel like I’m a lot better prepared going into this national race.”

Her development – mentally and athletically – has surprised even Phipps, who knew he had a talented athlete when he recruited her out of Wenatchee High School. She posted the best cross country/track season by a WAC freshman last year with a pair of individual titles and an indoor distance medley relay title, two all-time Idaho top-10 entries and, along with teammate Alycia Butterworth, the first NCAA berth by a true freshman in women’s track and field history.

This season, she hasn’t taken her foot off the accelerator. She went undefeated against collegiate competition in her first four meets, despite running against regionally- and nationally-ranked teams like Oregon, Washington, Wisconsin, Washington State, Wichita State, Cal Poly and more. In the process, she also set multiple Idaho course records and led the women’s team to regional rankings throughout the year.

“If you look at her career, every time she’s achieved something, it’s allowed her to take another bump up. I think this meet is going to allow her to take another step forward and this can carry over into indoor track and then the outdoor season,” Phipps said. “We’re still on a pretty conservative mileage plan with her so far, and even though she’s gotten so much better, the scary thing is that she still has plenty of room to improve.”

The women’s 6000m race will start at 9:58 a.m. (PT). There will be a live webcast available through www.NCAA.com.

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