Womack Making The Most Of Her Senior Year

Hayley Womack

AMES, Iowa- Senior forward Hayley Womack came within inches of scoring her first goal of her senior season on multiple occasions in Iowa State’s first four games. Womack’s shots just always seemed to sail a bit wide or high. That all changed on a chilly September night.

In the 57th minute, the Cyclones were trailing rival Iowa 1-0 when junior Haley Albert headed a perfect pass to a streaking Womack towards the Hawkeye goal. Womack wasted no time floating a shot towards the left post of the goal, though instead of sailing wide or high, this time the ball ricocheted off the post and into the back of the net. Womack scored her first goal of the year and perhaps signaled a new era in Cyclone soccer. The senior had just tied up the game 1-1 and gave Iowa State new life.

“It felt pretty great,” Womack said. “The first shot that I had went barely wide of the post and I was just like are you kidding me? After getting that second shot and getting the goal it felt amazing. I was so excited and ran to my teammates. It kind of was something I needed to help me. That win was huge. Being here the last three years we hadn’t beat them and had lost some of them pretty badly. It was so hard to take. Once we got that win, not only was it huge for us as a team it was also huge for our program. It showed that with Tony being here now everything is going to move forward. I think that it was huge for our program.”

With new found confidence, Iowa State was able to get another goal from fellow senior Alyssa Williamson and defeat the Hawkeyes 2-1 for the first time in nine years, snapping Iowa’s 30-game streak of non-conference games without a loss. It was just the kind of win the Cyclones needed to prove they were a program to be dealt with and it all started with a much needed goal from Womack.

For Womack, it was just the start she had hoped for in the beginning part of her senior year. Her previous three seasons had been successful, but each had highs and lows as Womack never started more than four games in a season. She wanted to make sure this year, her senior year, meant something more.

“I wanted this to be an outstanding senior year and to help put our mark on the program,” Womack said. “This summer I put in a lot of extra work. My goal was to come in fit and be ready to play. With this being my senior year I don’t want to regret anything after I’m done, I try and make sure that every game and practice I put everything I have out there. I will do whatever I can to help the team.”

Womack originally committed to Northwestern out of high school, but before leaving for Evanston, Ill.  she found out that her scholarship was no longer available and she would have to find a new team. After a few phone calls, Womack was ready to begin her collegiate career in Ames, Iowa. It all seemed to work itself out and for the better.

Womack has enjoyed her Iowa State career and was a part of last year’s Big 12 tournament qualifying team. But before her senior year had started she found out that she would have to face another road block. The Cyclones would be under the direction of a new coach her last season in Ames and she wasn’t sure who the new coach would be or if the new coach would be a good fit for her. Iowa State hired then assistant coach Tony Minatta and Womack couldn’t be happier to play her last season under Minatta’s direction.

“Practices have a lot of focus and a purpose now,” Womack said. “Just after the preseason you could see that the team was so much more ready for that first game then we have been in years past. Tony’s knowledge for soccer is amazing. All of the practice drills we do he gets from other areas like Italy and a lot of other places. It’s very helpful to work on our technique. Just to be able to play together, we do a lot of stuff that helps us get used to each other as players.

So far this season Womack has started every game for the Cyclones and been one of the team’s key offensive weapons. The speedy senior has led Iowa State to one of the most exciting starts in school history. Womack knows that this is just the beginning for herself and for the team. The Cyclones are here to stay and Womack is ready to take the next step.

“As a team and what I want for my senior year is to go back to the Big 12 tournament and to finish better than we did last year,” Womack said. “Also the huge goal for me is to make it to the NCAA tournament my senior year.”

With the confidence she gained from one goal, Womack knows that anything is possible for herself and the Cyclones.

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From Flint To Ames

Flint, Michigan

Flint, Michigan and Ames, Iowa. The two cities seem worlds apart. Flint with over 100,000 people. Ames with around 60,000. One in the heart of Iowa. One just an hour from Detroit.

But on the basketball court, the two fit together perfectly. They’ve celebrated some of the same great athletes. They both proudly consider these guys one of their own.

Flint has produced the top two scorers in Iowa State history in Jeff Grayer and Barry Stevens. No. 9 on that list is Justus Thigpen, also a Flint native.

In 2013, Monté Morris became the next great player from Flint. All he did was break the NCAA record for assist-to-turnover ratio as a freshman.

So what is it about guys from Flint having success in Ames?

Both cities are immensely passionate about their hoops according to Morris. And both are there for you.

“Here in Ames, the fans stick with you through the ups and downs and that’s just like Flint,” Morris said. “Flint sticks with you just like Ames does. When I got here it just felt like home and I was able to feed off the energy because I knew what it was like.”

In Flint, there are obstacles. A lot of times, it is basketball that keeps youngsters on the right track. Morris used the game he loves to stay on the straight-and-narrow.

“It’s so easy to get strung out in the wrong lane,” Morris said. “That could be dealing drugs or gangs or anything really. You could get into fights. But the other lane, that is just going to school and being around the right people, with that basketball or football in your hand.

“People knew that because of basketball I had a chance to go somewhere,” Morris adds. “They look out for you and keep you on the right track. Basketball is that important to people.”

That focus on basketball in Flint has benefited Iowa State to the tune of more than 6,400 points from Grayer, Stevens and Thigpen. Morris took the first step toward continuing the legacy with his better-than-solid freshman season.

“I knew of those guys, knew what they did here,” Morris said. “When I finally got here I started looking into it. Now I am getting older, more experienced. I’ve seen the tradition going on and the legacy the Flint guys left and it’s pushing me to leave one also. If they can do it, why can’t I? I want to be a part of that.”

Morris realized he had a chance to make a name for himself in basketball after talking to another Flint guy, one that played a role breaking the hearts of Cyclone fans in 2000. That guy was Mateen Cleaves.

“After my sophomore year, we were playing at Michigan State and lost in the semifinal game,” Morris said. “We lost in OT and after the game he brought me to the back of the Breslin Center and told me he knew I could play at a high level. He asked me to give him the chance and let him show me things and work me out. I spent time with him and he got me ready. It’s a tradition now, I go home, call him up and we go from there.”

It isn’t about a Michigan State guy helping an Iowa State guy. It’s about a Flint guy helping a Flint guy. That’s the pride of Flint basketball.

It’s a pride that, fortunately for Cyclone fans, has continued to grow in Ames.

Follow Matt Shoultz on Twitter, @mjshoultz.

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Jayme Olson: Forever a Cyclone

Jayme Olson

When Jayme Olson chose to come to Iowa State out of Bettendorf, Iowa she had a dream much like many student-athletes, to make an impact and a difference at Iowa State. At the time, it was 1994 and the Cyclones had just five winning seasons in the history of the program. They had never made the postseason, but Olson didn’t care.

Her freshman season the team went 8-19.

After that, she started to rethink whether she would be able to make an impact.
However, with the resignation of then-head coach Theresa Becker, Iowa State began its search for a new head coach. It wasn’t long before they decided on then-Toledo coach Bill Fennelly. Fennelly had revitalized the Mid-American Conference program into an NCAA tournament team year-in and year-out.

“Coach Fennelly came in and really brought a breath of fresh air and a whole new motivation level for us,” Olson said. “We started to get things turned around and started to believe that we could compete.”

Olson was one of the cornerstones of Fennelly’s team. Under Fennelly, she started every game she played, eventually finishing her career holding ISU records on 13 season and 15 career lists. Olson helped lead the Cyclones to their first two NCAA appearances, and the first NCAA Tournament win in school history her senior year against Kent. Olson’s 1,799 career points currently ranks fourth in school history.

Olson’s athletic accomplishments have not been forgotten by Iowa State. In 2004, Olson’s jersey was officially retired and hangs in the rafters in Hilton Coliseum and tonight she will be honored once again as she is inducted into the ISU Letterwinners Athletics Hall of Fame.

2014 Hall of Fame Inductees

Today, Olson proudly displays her Cyclone banner in her home in eastern Iowa and continues to share her memories of her time donning the Cardinal and Gold.
Of course, Olson can’t reflect back on her time at Iowa State without mentioning the Little Clone Club.

“The biggest thing I remember is the Little Clone Club,” she said. “We didn’t have a lot of people at our games [at first], but those kids and their families were so dedicated and they were cheering us on and those kids thought that we were great and wonderful even though we weren’t winning. When I look back, and think that I was a role model for those kids and I gave them something to cheer about that is something that stands out in my mind. There was such a family feel.”

After starting her career with an 8-19 season, it makes being inducted into the Iowa State Athletics Hall of Fame this weekend even more bittersweet.

“When I think of all the great athletes that have come out of Iowa State, and to feel that they wanted to honor me is just humbling,” she said. “I just feel grateful, and I am just glad I can be a part of this. I’m forever a Cyclone and proud to be one.”

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Shuey’s Passion Is Statistics

Shuey, Steve in press box

You probably perused the box scores in the paper when you were a kid. You likely go online to check the stats now. Knowing the stats of your favorite football players and teams have always been a part of the fan experience.

Compiling statistics in any sport is a tireless and thankless job that has to be done with the utmost accuracy. You can be sure if Iowa State is hosting the event, the final official statistic sheet will be one of the most important documents disseminated.

That’s because Steve Shuey is holding the binoculars from the second level of the press tower.

Shuey took his familiar spot in the press box on Saturday for the 36th season in a row as a member of the ISU stat crew, calling the plays in a prompt, accurate manner.

Since 1979, Shuey has calculated stats for Iowa State football and men’s basketball teams. His service in the ISU football press box spans five decades and ranks as the 22nd-longest current streak in FBS.

Shuey watches a different game than the casual fan. He can’t get caught up in the excitement or disappointment of events during a game. His concentration level must be at its peak.

But don’t underestimate Shuey’s love and passion for ISU athletics. It’s what brings him back every season.

“That is basically why I do this,” said Shuey. “I’m not in it for the money. I’m not in it for the glory. I want to do it because I love Iowa State University. I want to give back to the university. The people I’ve been involved with have just been great, second to none. The ISU Athletics Communications staff has always treated me very fair. I’ve just met a lot of great people in doing it.”

You can basically say Shuey has seen it all. He’s only missed five home football games in his long tenure on the crew. Do you remember Troy Davis’ school-record 378-yard rushing game vs. Missouri in 1996? Shuey was the guy tallying each yard and carry the All-American made that day.

Do you recall Chris Moore’s 27-tackle game vs. Oklahoma in 1986? Shuey does. He made sure Moore was credited with every stop that day.

He has a lot of fond memories calling games.

“The Oklahoma State game (2011) ranks right up there,” Shuey said. “Everybody knows what a big win that was for us. Even though I’m watching and statting the game, I’m excited for Iowa State when they win those types of games. The Iowa game that same year was also pretty special. Those were great games. You have to maintain your focus on those types of games. Those are the type of games you really have to maintain and really dig deep inside of you to make sure you stay concentrated.”

Steve Shuey is in his 36th season compiling statistics for Iowa State football games.

Steve Shuey is in his 36th season compiling statistics for Iowa State football games.

Shuey cherished every moment covering the exploits of All-American and Heisman Trophy runner-up running back Davis. With each record-breaking yard the Cyclone legend racked up, Shuey was the one recording it.

“I took a lot of pride in watching Troy,” Shuey said. “I would read in the paper the next day that he ran 20 times for X amount of yards. I called that. I called every yard. A lot of people don’t understand that Troy may have only have gained six inches on a carry, but if it moved to the other side of the line, he got credited for a yard. You think back over time – how many of those did he actually have? I know he did have some of those. Those are very crucial. He was a special talent.”

Shuey got his start in the stat racket when his father, Ken, asked him to join the crew when they were shorthanded one game. Ken Shuey began keeping stats for Cyclone football in the 1950s. Steve tagged along with his father for many of those early seasons and noticed he possessed the same passion.

Ken stepped down as the leader of the stat crew in 1998 and Steve took over.

Like in most professions, technology has changed the way people perform their tasks. When Shuey first started, stats were all calculated by hand and then added up on a final sheet of paper. Now it’s all done through a computer software program.

“Definitely with the computer, everything has gotten a lot easier for us,” said Shuey. “The computer has helped everything out.  When we did it manually we had a person keeping each team. We had one guy making chicken scratches and adding numbers. Everything had to be added up at the end of the game. What we can kick out now in about two minutes took us probably 45 minutes to an hour when we did it by hand.”

Shuey’s staff also used to have to compile averages postgame. Not anymore.

“Now when you enter plays into the computer it automatically tells you that number 10 had X amount of passes for X amount of yards,” Shuey said. “Back in the day, we had a tally sheet that we formed over the years where you put down the number of yards for a running total so we could keep track of it. Now, you enter it in the computer and it gives the average.”

Shuey will call each play how he sees it to his partner, Rich Pope, who types Shuey’s signals into the computer. Both have to be well-versed with the rules of college football. Sometimes coaching staffs won’t agree with the final box score, but Shuey is usually correct.

“I remember the Texas Tech game in 2002 when Kliff Kingsbury was breaking all of the passing records,” Shuey said. “Their offense ran a lot of short backward passes. According to the statistic manual, a backward pass is considered a rush and not a pass attempt. We had nine or 10 in question and Tech called us on it. We went back and looked at the film and we had made the correct calls.”

Shuey doesn’t have a lot rituals, but he likes to good night sleep before the game. His job his tense and needs much attention to detail.

He watches each play closely. Falling behind is not an option.

“You learn over the years that you do not cheer outside, you cheer inside your body,” Shuey said. “You have to stay and commit yourself to being focused 100 percent of the time. You just can’t take a down off and you can’t afford to fall behind, or you won’t be able to catch up.”

Shuey has perfected his craft through the years. Many box scores compiled after games are filled with errors. Though Shuey and his crew would be the first to tell you they aren’t perfect, they no doubt rank as one of the best stat crews in the business. There is no argument.

Shuey’s reputation is so impeccable his services are often requested by outside entities to serve as a statistician. He’s worked at numerous Big 12 Women’s Basketball Championships as the lead statistician.

Joni Lehmann, the Big 12’s Associate Director of Communications, understands the importance of an excellent stat crew.

“Steve has been a valuable asset to the Phillips 66 Big 12 Women’s Basketball Championship for many years as a member of the Iowa State stat crew,” Lehmann said. “He is extremely efficient and takes pride in making sure everything is accurate. If there are ever any issues, I don’t hear about them as Steve and the rest of the crew take care of getting them corrected on their own.”

Shuey, who is employed at Munn Lumber for his day job, works the games strictly as a volunteer. His only compensation is season tickets for his family.

This is all fine with Shuey. He feels lucky to have the opportunity to serve the school he loves.

“I’m very honored to be a member of ISU’s stat crew,” said Shuey. “I just really love doing it.”

 

 

 

 

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40th Season of Jack Trice Stadium

College Football

This year marks the 40th season of Jack Trice Stadium. The stadium has provided Iowa State fans with many memorable moments since its first game on Sept. 20, 1975.

Picking the top-five Iowa State victories in JTS history is a difficult task, and very subjective to say the least. Listed below is my brave attempt to rate the top-five wins in the history of the stadium.

You may or may not agree, but here you go….

Photo 11

5. Iowa State 44, Iowa 41 (3 OT)- Sept. 10, 2011
Both teams weren’t ranked, but for pure entertainment value, Iowa State’s 44-41 triple overtime victory vs. Iowa in the Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Series was one of most exciting games in Jack Trice Stadium history. The Cyclones came from behind on three different occasions in the fourth quarter and overtime periods, as the victory was sealed on James White’s four-yard TD run in the third overtime. ISU QB Steele Jantz had the game of his life, completing 25-of-37 passes for 279 yards and four touchdowns. Down 24-17 with 5:40 left in regulation, Jantz engineered a 13-play, 59-yard drive to force overtime and keep the Cyclones’ hopes alive. Twice in the drive, Jantz converted improbable third-and-long situations to keep the chains moving. The first on a 19-yard pass to Darius Reynolds on 3rd-and-15 and the second on a 40-yard pass to Reynolds on 3rd-and-20.

Quotable…
“I don’t have trouble finding words very often. I had trouble in the locker room and am having trouble right now because of the unbelievable performance, not just by one team but by two teams out there. Our football team overcame unbelievable adversity today.”
– Iowa State head coach Paul Rhoads

photo 33

4. Iowa State 36, No. 20 Nebraska 14- Sept. 28, 2002
Iowa State quarterback Seneca Wallace completed 19-of-32 passes for 220 yards and a touchdown and ran for two more scores as the Cyclone defense held No. 20 Nebraska to 81 yards rushing for ISU’s biggest win over the Huskers since 1899. Wallace received help from running back Michael Wagner and receiver Lane Danielsen. Wagner gained 107 yards on just 19 carries and Danielsen tallied 111 yards through the air on nine catches. The win marked ISU’s first against a ranked opponent since 1993.

Quotable…
“We wanted to go out there and cut down mistakes. We were trying to keep the ball moving and score some points. We are focusing on playing to win and putting Iowa State football on the map.”
– Iowa State quarterback Seneca Wallace

photo 55

3. Iowa State 37, No. 9 Nebraska 28- Nov. 13, 1976
In one of the biggest wins in Cyclone history, Iowa State downed No. 9 Nebraska, 37-28 in front of 50,781 fans. It was the first win vs. Nebraska since 1960 and the Cyclones did it in exciting fashion. In a game marked with a number of outstanding plays, none was bigger than Luther Blue’s 95-yard kickoff return that gave the Cyclones a 17-7 lead. Sophomore running back Dexter Green rushed for 109 yards and two TDs and the ISU defense minimized the vaunted Husker rushing attack to just 77 yards on the ground.

Quotable…
“Jiminy Christmas! We held them to 77 yards rushing! That’s a helluva defensive effort. This is the high point of my career and the greatest thing that’s happened to Iowa State and Iowa State football. I’ve been telling people we have great football players. Luther Blue is a super player. And I’ll tell ya, Dexter Green’s not so bad either.”
– Iowa State head coach Earle Bruce

photo 22

2. Iowa State 19, No. 7 Nebraska 10- Nov. 14, 1992
On a crisp November afternoon in 1992, Iowa State stunned the football nation by posting one of the biggest upsets in college football that season with a 19-10 win over No. 7 Nebraska. The story of the game was defense and third string quarterback Marv Seiler. The Cyclones held the Huskers to 246 yards of total offense, 225 yards less than their season average. While the Cyclone defense was stopping the Husker offense, Seiler was instantly becoming a legend among the Cyclone faithful. The seldom-used fifth-year senior carved the Husker defense with 144 yards on 24 carries. His 78-yard run set up Iowa State’s fourth-quarter touchdown drive and his brilliant manipulation of the triple-option controlled the clock and moved the chains the rest of the way.

Quotable…
“I’m not very fast. But I’m a lot faster when people are chasing me.”
– Iowa State quarterback Marv Seiler

College Football

1. Iowa State 37, No. 2 Oklahoma State 31 (2 OT)- Nov. 18, 2011
Really no argument on this one, right? Iowa State turned the college football world upside down with a 37-31 double overtime victory over No. 2 Oklahoma State, its biggest win in school history. The win knocked the Cowboys out of national championship contention, as the Cyclones made an improbable comeback, erasing a 17-point second-half deficit. Jeff Woody sealed the win with a four-yard touchdown run, but the play of the game was Ter’Ran Benton’s interception after Jake Knott tipped a Brandon Weeden pass in OSU’s possession in the second overtime. What made the win even more remarkable is that it was accomplished with a reserve freshman quarterback, Jared Barnett, running the offense. Barnett passed for 376 yards, the sixth-best output in school history. The Cyclones churned out 568 yards of total offense, the 12th-best total in school history.

Quotable…
“We’ve got a blue collar football team. We got a group of young men that put their hard hats on every day and just continue to go to work. I could not be prouder of the effort they put out tonight. It was a complete team effort and that is what we needed for victory and that is what we delivered.”
– Iowa State head coach Paul Rhoads

Bubbling Under….

These games didn’t make my cut, but you could certainly make a strong argument to include them.

Iowa State 23, No. 8 Iowa 3 – Sept. 10, 2005
Iowa State totally dominated its in-state rival Iowa, ranked eighth nationally, in the 2005 edition of the Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Series.

Iowa State 34, No. 8 Missouri 13 – Oct. 17, 1981
Behind the powerful legs of All-American back Dwayne Crutchfield, Iowa State routed No. 8 Missouri. Crutchfield had three touchdowns and 98 yards in the win, as the Cyclones moved into the national rankings the following week.

Iowa State 31, Texas Tech 17 – Oct. 12, 2002
Seneca Wallace. “The Run.” Makes the list purely on one of the most amazing plays ever witnessed in Jack Trice Stadium history.

Iowa State 15, No. 7 Oklahoma State 10 – Nov. 23, 1985
It was brutally cold (22 degrees at kickoff), but the Cyclones came ready to play in a win over the seventh-ranked Cowboys. ISU held future NFL Hall-of-Famer Thurman Thomas, the nation’s second-leading rusher at the time, to just 54 yards on the ground and the Cowboys to just 47 total rushing yards.

Iowa State 15, Iowa 13 – Sept. 15, 2007
The “Shaggy Game.” Any victory decided on the last play of the game is sweet, especially if it’s against your in-state rival. Senior kicker Bret “Shaggy” Culbertson accounted for all 15 Iowa State points on a school-record-tying five field goals. Culbertson’s 28-yarder with one tick left propelled the Cyclones to the huge upset.

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Iowa State-Stanford a Match of Great Setting Schools

Iowa State setter Suzanne Horner will make her official ISU debut Friday night against Stanford.

Iowa State setter Suzanne Horner will make her official ISU debut Friday night against Stanford.

Programs in many sports get reputations for producing many elite level student-athletes at particular positions. At Iowa State, the position that has stood out has been libero as ISU’s libero’s have earned an AVCA All-America honor and the Big 12 Libero of the Year award the last six years (#LiberoU). Another position that has stood out at Iowa State has been the setter, as head coach Christy Johnson-Lynch has used her background as an All-American and national championship winning setter to help build the Iowa State program.

Friday’s match between Iowa State and No. 3 Stanford is intriguing because it features two of the best setting coaches in the country in Johnson-Lynch and Stanford’s head coach John Dunning.

Kaylee Manns (6) was one of the student-athletes in which ISU's volleyball success built its foundation upon.

Kaylee Manns (6) was one of the student-athletes in which ISU’s volleyball success built its foundation upon.

The foundation of the turnaround of Iowa State volleyball in Johnson-Lynch’s first nine seasons at Iowa State has been the setter and libero positions. It is easier for struggling programs to quickly find high-quality student-athletes at setter and libero because each team has one and very few rotate at either position. If you want to play, you have to find schools. By bringing in Johnson-Lynch, the setter for Nebraska’s 1995 National Championship squad, the Cyclones had a great setting coach and name in the volleyball community to sell to recruits.

In Johnson-Lynch’s tenure, Iowa State has already produced two multiple-time All-America setters in Kaylee Manns and Alison Landwehr. Manns was one of the foundation players for the rise of Iowa State volleyball, and a face for the early days of Cyclone success from 2006-09. Landwehr was a fruits of the labor kind of player, a high-level setter out of high school that the pre-Kaylee Manns ISU would have probably not had a shot at, but the Cyclones were able to get in on now. Then there was the success ISU experienced with Landwehr at the helm, a Regional Final and a Regional Semifinal as she earned AVCA First Team All-America honors in 2011. Suzanne Horner will be taking the reins of the Iowa State offense in 2014, and Johnson-Lynch has already liked what she has seen out of the sophomore transfer.

Alison Landwehr became Iowa State's first AVCA First Team All-American setter under Christy Johnson-Lynch.

Alison Landwehr became Iowa State’s first AVCA First Team All-American setter under Christy Johnson-Lynch.

As for John Dunning of Stanford, in his over 30 years of head coaching work at the collegiate level with Stanford and, previously, Pacific, he has had seven setters earn All-America honors. At Pacific, where he guided the Tigers to the 1985 and 1986 NCAA titles, Dunning inherited a great setting school as the Tigers had just had three-time First Team All-American Jan Saunders graduate the year before he arrived. Dunning’s first two setters, Liz Hert and Melanie Beckenhauer were both two-time All-Americans. Near the end of his Pacific run in the mid-1990s, Dunning produced another two All-America setters in Sacha Caldemeyer and Kara Gormsen.

When Dunning went to Stanford in 2001, he inherited another great setting school with multiple All-America setters in its history. Interestingly, it was not until after he had won his two national titles at Stanford, in 2001 and 2004, that he had his first All-America setter with the Cardinal in Bryn Kehoe in 2005. After earning three All-America honors for Kehoe, it was Cassidy Litchman who earned two All-America honors running the Stanford offense. Last season was Stanford’s latest All-America setter in Madi Bugg, who earned Second Team honors. Bugg will be at Hilton Coliseum Friday night running the Cardinal offense.

The value of a great setter cannot be understated. While it is possible to win a national title without a great one, it is very difficult. The theme of the end of the college volleyball season last year was the value of the setter. A lot of credit for Penn State’s national title went to their First Team All-America setter Micha Hancock, who was named the NCAA Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, and Wisconsin was carried to the national title match by a stud freshman setter in Lauren Carlini.

So when you are at Hilton Coliseum on Friday night (buy your tickets here), and you are impressed by the outstanding play of the setters for both squads, give the credit to the coaches who value having great setters in their programs.

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Cyclones Elevate Status With Training Facility Renovations

The Iowa State track and cross country program took yet another step in creating one of the nation’s elite training environments this summer, completing the irrigation of its championship-caliber cross country course.

The Iowa State Cross Country Course, first constructed in 1995, was the first facility in the nation designed exclusively for competitive cross country racing. Several cross country-only courses around the nation have been developed since its establishment, including Wisconsin’s Thomas Zimmer Championship Course, the Oklahoma State Cross Country Course and Indiana State’s LaVern Gibson Championship Course.

A look at one of the sprinklers near the finish line of the ISU Cross Country Course.

A look at one of the sprinklers at the ISU Cross Country Course.

The Cyclones are ahead of the curve again, adding an irrigation system throughout the course. The facility spans an area of 212,000 square meters (approx. 52 acres) and incorporates pop-up sprinklers across its 4K, 6K, 8K and 10K courses. The system makes the venue the NCAA’s lone fully-irrigated, cross country-only course.

The renovation features an upgraded home stretch and finish line area. The final 400-meter straightaway is a well-tended sprint to the finish with a chain-link fence barrier between the fans and the course. The finish line is marked by a brick-pillar, iron-trellised arbor. The course upgrades also include a 1600-meter, soft-surface training loop located at the center of the facility.

The Iowa State cross country course has been home to two Big 12 Championships (1996, 98), two NCAA Midwest Regional Championships (1997, 2013) and two NCAA Championships (1995, 2000). The course is also the slated venue of the 2017 NCAA Midwest Regional and will likely play host to the Big 12 Championships in the near future, having not hosted the event since 2008. The irrigation and finish-line project totals a $500,000 investment into the program’s future.

The overhaul at the cross country course is one of several recent renovations the track and cross country program has seen in the past few years. The Cyclone Sports Complex opened in the fall of 2012, providing a top-notch outdoor track. The track includes 4 long-jump runways and two pole-vault areas to go with over 150,000 square feet of throws space.

The finish line drew lots of traffic on social media, including a shoutout from Gary Wilson, executive director of the Roy Griak Invitational.

The finish line drew lots of traffic on social media, including a shoutout from Gary Wilson, executive director of the Roy Griak Invitational.

The Bill and Karen Bergan Track is a part of the $13-million Cyclone Sports Complex, home to ISU softball, soccer and track and field, and is set to host the 2015 Big 12 Outdoor Track and Field Championships this spring.

The Cyclones spend the winter months training at one of the nation’s top indoor facilities in the Lied Recreation-Athletic Center and Harry Hoak Track. The Lied Recreation Center is complete with a 300-meter track, throws space and a turf surface spanning over 3,000 square meters.

The Harry Hoak Track was resurfaced in 2013 and plays host to two meets on an annual basis in the ISU Classic and the Big 12 Indoor Track and Field Championships. The ISU Classic is one of the nation’s premier NCAA-qualifying events, accounting for over 15% of the 2014 NCAA-Championship field across men’s and women’s middle-distance and distance events. The $13-million facility has been home to the conference championships six times and is set for a seventh this upcoming February.

The newly-renovated track locker rooms are complete with individual, wooden-locker space and two televisions. The rec center is also home to training areas to Iowa State wrestling, who shares a recovery area that includes a sauna and ice bath.

Around the nation, many programs can showcase one or two of the indoor/outdoor/cross country facilities, but only a select few boast the championship-level trifecta like the Cyclones.

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