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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Reactions ranged from trepidation to full-blown celebration.
The Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union board of directors unanimously voted Wednesday to lengthen girls' cross country races to 5,000 meters, beginning next fall.
'Finally, a voice says that girls can do anything that boys can do,” said Mark Jensen, coach at Cedar Rapids Kennedy. 'There's not that opinion any more that girls can't do as much or aren't as able.”
Iowa boys have run 5,000 meters (3.1 miles) for more than a quarter-century. Girls moved from 2 miles to 4,000 meters (2.5 miles) in 2002. And starting in the fall, they'll move even with the boys - and the girls in most other states.
'It's one of the last hills that girls in Iowa have had to overcome,” said Iowa City West Coach Mike Parker. 'When they switched from 2 miles to 4K, everybody was afraid that would be the death of girls' cross country.
'It wasn't then, and it won't be now. The sport will continue to grow, because it's a lifelong healthy sport.”
The board's vote was unanimous. But the gleeeful reaction that Jensen and Parker shared wasn't universal.
'I'm not happy,” said Bob Mudd, who has guided 31 girls' teams to state at North Linn. 'I've been calling girls all night, trying to relieve their fears.
'Will we lose kids because of this? I hope not. But some of them are pretty scared right now. Most of them will be OK after they've gotten used to (the switch), but there will be a shock at the beginning. The younger kids who are just getting started, it's going to be scary to them, and I don't blame them.
'I guess I wish the Union would have told the coaches first instead of the kids finding out on Twitter.”
Monticello freshman Paige Holub ran to the Class 2A state championship about two months ago, leading the Panthers to the team title. She said runners 'will have to adjust” to the new distance.
'We'll probably have to train a little more in the summer,” she said. 'We might have to enter some more 5Ks during the summer.”
Holub was one of five freshmen on the Panthers' title team. Coach Dan Sauser said the extra distance will probably make his team even stronger.
'The longer the race, the better these kids will be,” Sauser said. 'But I do have a little hesitancy. From a training aspect, it's going to take some adjusting. We're going to have to go back to the drawing board a little bit.”
Iowa had been one of a dwindling number of states with 4,000-meter races for the girls. Nebraska and Wisconsin recently switched from 4K to 5K.
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