Iowa State women's cross-country coach Andrea Grove-McDonough's competitive nature is telling her to show the nation what the team is capable at the Roy Griak Invitational on Saturday.
In the best interest of her runners, however, she will wait until the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational on Oct. 14 to showcase a full lineup.
While Grove-McDonough said freshman Branna MacDougall, sophomore Anne Frisbie and redshirt junior Bethanie Brown all expect to be key contributors once the team reaches the Big 12 Championship, NCAA Midwest Regional and NCAA Championship in late October and early November, none of them will compete at the Griak Invitational in Minneapolis.
Frisbie fell ill this week and is not 100 percent, and MacDougall is coming off of a busy summer that resulted in her finishing 10th in the 5,000-meter run at the IAAF U-20 World Championships in July in Bydgoszcz, Poland.
Grove-McDonough said Brown, who has not competed in a cross-country meet since the 2014 NCAA Championship, is beginning to transition herself into the team's workouts and is coming along nicely.
"I’m trying to do what’s best for each of these women as individuals, even though it will hurt us, no question as a team, may hurt our ranking significantly when we come out of there," Grove-McDonough said. "But those women will be ready to go, they will toe the line in November, they will toe the line at the conference meet, they will be there. We will for the first time show our full squad at Wisconsin."
With three weeks off since Iowa State's last meet, the team has had an opportunity to build fitness and focus on staying healthy.
Despite staying patient, Grove-McDonough is eager to prove the team's 24th-place finish at last season's NCAA Championship was a bump in the road and "show people that Iowa State’s back in a big way."
"I think we’re quietly confident with what we can do, knowing we still have a lot of work to do," she said. "We’re certainly not sitting back and counting our chickens, but we also feel good about what our potential is."
In the meantime, Iowa State will send out senior Perez Rotich and redshirt junior Erin Hooker, who were the top two runners on the team a season ago, for the Griak Invitational. Grove-McDonough also will give some of the other runners who normally wouldn't be expected to score for the team a chance to make an impact.
"It’s not like we’re mailing it in," Grove-McDonough said. "We’re putting two of our best out there, so I still expect to beat a fair number of teams."
Despite missing some of its top runners, the team won't be lacking in energy. Senior Maryn Lowry will make her season debut and said last season's pre-race jam sessions likely will return again this year.
"We have Evelyne [Guay], she's usually the DJ," Lowry said. "She just puts on a bunch of remixes. We all trust her judgment, so we let her do her thing. It works every time."
Once it's time to race, Lowry will shift her focus to the competition and kick off a season in which she hopes to consistently run as one of the top seven runners on the team during meets.
Grove-McDonough acknowledged that it will be hard for her to go into the meet Saturday "with a few chambers empty." While she knows the team is not capable of finishing first, she is confident it can still defeat teams that will be at the NCAA Championship in November.
"It’s hard not to line them up and say, 'giddy up,'" she said. "Knock a few people out, that’s fun. But I just have to stand down for now."