|Another step forward|
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
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
“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.