The Iowa State women's cross-country team's performance Saturday at the Roy Griak Invitational was a close resemblance to a 2015 meet.
Senior Perez Rotich and redshirt junior Erin Hooker led the way for the Cyclones like they did in the final four meets last season, finishing 10th and 41st, respectively, on Saturday.
And the remaining Iowa State runners who competed were largely inexperienced, with four out of the five being freshmen or redshirt freshmen who made their collegiate cross-country debuts three weeks ago at the Hawkeye Early Bird Invitational.
The difference this year is coach Andrea Grove-McDonough had the flexibility of getting some of the younger runners on the team experience and an opportunity to score points while knowing she had a strong group of runners back home who will be able to make a difference with fresh legs in late October and November.
With three weeks off in between the team's first and second meets of the season, Grove-McDonough has focused most of September on building fitness.
"We’re building a ton of fitness in September, trying to focus on staying healthy, but I can kind of sense as we get further into things and as we start to get going a little bit, we can see the focus start to come into play," she said. "Our eyes are firmly on what we want to do in November. We just want to show people that Iowa State’s back in a big way."
Senior Maryn Lowry said the team meets for practice at 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Tuesdays and Fridays are workout days — tempo or intervals on the cross-country course.
The runners go on a mid-week long run on Wednesdays, usually eight to 10 miles, and a long run upward of 14 miles on Saturdays.
"[I run] about 70 miles a week," Lowry said. "Sometimes with a day off it will go down to 65, [but can reach] upward of 75. It fluctuates, but average 65 to 70."
While Grove-McDonough is confident in her team's ability to perform well at the NCAA Championships in November in Terre Haute, the same location where Iowa State finished runner-up at nationals two years ago, she knows the deep competition at the top will pose a challenge.
"It is a very competitive year at the top in women’s cross-country this year," she said. "There are just so many great teams, and they’re teams that, you know, the great teams are back being great. The ones that you expect. Some years it’s a couple here and a couple there. But this year, it’s like everybody has something, every good team and every good coach has something they are putting out there."