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Friday, May 2, 2014 | Iowa State Daily | SPORTS | 7
Athlete inspires team with driven attitude Zach Steffen Bio
By Mike.Randleman @iowastatedaily.com
Kelby Wingert/Iowa State Daily
Senior Zach Steffen practices in the ISU golf team’s indoor facility. Despite playing golf at Iowa State, Steffen’s athletic abilities extend beyond the green, having excelled in baseball and basketball before starting college.
Most golfers are not known for having much athleticism away from the golf course. Zach Steffen is an exception. Steffen, now a senior on the ISU men’s golf team, earned all-conference honors on the basketball court at Des Moines Lincoln High School in the winter during high school. In the spring, he led the Railsplitters to their first appearance at the state golf championship in 25 years. He even played baseball growing up, too. In his youth, Steffen had a sport for all seasons but he knew he had a decision to make in order to compete athletically at the next level. “In high school, it kind of worked out that baseball and golf both couldn’t work at the same time, so I had to choose between the two of them,” Steffen said. “With basketball I just wasn’t quite good enough, so I ended up with golf.” His choice has paid dividends, allowing him to fulfill his dream of playing for the school he had long rooted for. Before that dream was realized, Steffen made his mark on the junior college circuit. Not receiving much Division I interest after graduating high school, Steffen opted to go to Indian Hills Community College where he became a member of a national championship-winning team in 2011. After a successful campaign that included five top-five finishes, his name began to pop up on recruiting radars and he piqued the interest of ISU coach Andrew
ISU women to focus on racing strategy for track and field meet By Chris.Wolff @iowastatedaily.com The ISU women’s track and field team will continue to follow the trend of splitting up the weekend and competing in multiple meets. Athletes will be competing in the Musco Twilight meet in Iowa City, the Jace Lacoste Invitational in Starkville, Mississippi, and the Payton Jordan Invitational in Palo Alto, California. The spotlight for this weekend’s slate of meets will be on the Payton Jordan Invitational, where Iowa State’s top distance runners will be competing in the 1,500-meter race. Sam Bluske, Katy Moen, Bethanie Brown, Crystal Nelson, Maggie Gannon and Perez Rotich are all slated to compete in that event. This weekend is also the final chance for the team to gain some momentum as the next meet the Cyclones compete in will be the Big 12 Championships. “We’re just looking for more forward momentum going into the championship season,” Bluske said. “It’s going to be a fun race, something a little different.” Most of the ISU athletes competing in the 1,500-meter race are more accustomed to longer races like the 5,000-meter and 10,000-meter events.
However, running a shorter race like the 1,500-meter can be beneficial for the athletes. “We really want to focus on running smart and taking a tactical approach to the race,” Brown said. “Since I don’t really train for this event — I typically train for longer distances — I don’t really have a set time I’m looking to run. It’s a good chance to run tactically and see how I do in a tactical race like this.” For much of the season, athletes run all out in an attempt to hit qualifying times, personal bests and school bests. Oftentimes, when it’s a championship race, the pace is slowed as runners try to run more tactically and save up enough energy for a strong kick down the final stretch of a race. Running a tactical race, like many of the ISU athletes will be doing this weekend, is good practice for the upcoming weeks where they will be running for championships. “Racing smart is going to be vital come championship season,” Bluske said. “It doesn’t always come down to who’s the fastest; it comes down to who can race the smartest. In some meets, you’re going to be with 10 to 15 other girls who have ran within 1 and 2 seconds of you.” With a host of Cyclones
>>GOMEZ p6 Coming out of Canyon High School, Gomez was already a decorated softball player. She was the recipient of a number of different team and individual awards throughout her career and as a freshman, she helped lead her school to a victory in the 2009 4A Texas State Championship game. In 2012, she was named player of the year in Texas by a number of media outlets and finished First-Team All-State in Texas. For Gomez, the decision to join the ISU softball team was an easy one. Despite the distance from Ames to New Braunfels, she said she had no problem making herself at home at Iowa State. “I really liked the Iowa State campus and the community here in Ames,” Gomez said. “There isn’t a professional sports team in the area, so you know the community really enjoys coming to the college games.” Much like during her high school career, the records and
competing in the same event together, the athletes said it provides a comforting feeling as they know they are all going through the same thing together. “I think it helps to have teammates there as support and also to gauge where you’re at in a race,” Moen said. “It’s nice to someone is there with you and going through the same thing.” It also takes off the nerves and tensions the athletes feel prior to a race because they have someone to go through the warm-up process with, Brown said. Running with teammates can also influence strategy. Depending on the race and who is competing in the race, a group of teammates can work together and control the pace of the race. “Last year in the 10k at Big 12s, we definitely all worked together as a team to slow the race down the first half, which was a huge advantage to us,” Moen said. “But it depends on the race and who’s in it and how much people are looking towards Iowa State to make the moves.” This weekend, the goal isn’t necessarily to win the race but instead to get a good lesson in running a tactical race. The Cyclones are hoping that lesson will benefit come championship season when Big 12 titles are on the line.
accolades have already started to pile up during her collegiate career. With seven games remaining in her sophomore season, Gomez has already rewritten school history for most careerstolen bases. During her freshman campaign, Gomez set the singleseason stolen base record, registering 31 steals on 33 attempts. The center fielder followed up her freshman year with 22 stolen bases on 27 attempts, tied for fourth in the Big 12. Gomez, currently sitting at 53 career steals, broke the ISU school record of 48 — previously claimed by Adi Blackmon — in the Cyclones’ game March 23 against Northern Illinois. “I actually didn’t realize I broke the record until somebody told me,” Gomez said. “But looking at that number, I hope to get at least that much through my next two years. 100 steals for my career would be awesome.” At the current pace Gomez has set for stealing bases, it’s not hard to imagine her finishing up her ISU career north of 100 steals.
Born: Oct. 19, 1991 Hometown: Des Moines, Iowa (Lincoln High School) Year: Senior Major: Management Achievements: Made 12 starts at Iowa State in his career (best finish: tied for 33rd twice), competed in the 2013 USGA U.S. Amateur Publinks, was all-conference basketball player at Des Moines Lincoln High School, was All-Academic Big 12 Honoree in the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons.
Tank, a fellow Des Moines native. “He had a good high school career; Lincoln didn’t have much of a golf history before he was there,” Tank said. “Then he had a great season at Indian Hills, winning a national championship. He was a guy we wanted to have.” Steffen intended to return for another season in Ottumwa, but the opportunity to become a Cyclone was an opportunity he could not pass up. Upon arriving at Iowa State, Steffen got a taste of Division I golf early, competing in four tournaments. In his junior season, Steffen’s workload increased, making seven starts and notching career-best finishes — tied for 33rd at the VCU Shootout and the Furman — along the way. Despite the progress Steffen made in his first two seasons, playing time has been hard to come by in his senior season. With an influx of young talent trickling in, the program’s growth exceeded the growth Steffen made in his own game.
In his time at Iowa State, Steffen has seen the program evolve from a Big 12 bottom dweller to a top 50 team. Though his name will not be prominent in the ISU record books, his work ethic and attitude have been integral to the development of his teammates. “When I was a freshman, I was a little lost when I came to the U.S., to Iowa State. My practices were not as good as they could have been,” said junior Scott Fernandez. “I would come to practice right on time, but Zach was always there 10 minutes early. I learned a lot from his work ethic.” Steffen, whose last start came in September, admitted that a lack of playing time has been a tough pill to swallow. Nonetheless, his work ethic did not die and is driving him toward the next stage in his playing career. “Obviously it was a tough, trying spring season, not being able to play, but I have other things to look forward to after this season’s done because I’m going to try to play professionally,” Steffen said. “It didn’t really stop me from working hard.” Steffen will look to follow in the footsteps of former teammate and mentor Nate McCoy, who currently plays on the PGA Tour Canada. “This winter I might play down in the mini tours in Arizona, then I might try to play in Canada like Nate does,” Steffen said. “Just seeing that somebody you played with for a couple years has had that success and is able to do it really gives you that confidence that ‘Hey, if he can do it, why not me?’”
Men’s track and field athletes strive to achieve season goals By Kyle.Kubiak @iowastatedaily.com Two athletes on the ISU men’s track and field team are in the midst of trying to accomplish a couple of goals they set at the start of the season. They will get a chance to achieve their goals this weekend in Starkville, Mississippi, at the Jace Lacoste Invitational. The two-time All-Big 12 shot put recipient, Jan Jeuschede, is ready to go out this weekend and throw similar distances to the ones that earned him third place at the Big 12 Indoor Championships. “Honestly, I’ve been pretty disappointed with my outdoor meets so far. I’ve only been throwing 57-58 [feet] when I should — and I know I should — be throwing 60 [feet],” Jeuschede said. “Hopefully it’s nice down there this weekend and I throw like I should be.” The forecast for Saturday’s competition in Starkville, Mississippi, is sitting at a high of 80 degrees with sunny skies, but Jeuschede knows it is going to take more than a clear sky to meet his goal. “I’ve definitely been working hard to improve,” Jeuschede said. “I feel a lot stronger and more solid all the way around this season from better lifting habits than last year.” Despite the belief that throwing the shot put is all about strength, Jeuschede said it is also about grace and technique. “Throwing isn’t just based on one thing, like simply just strength and speed. You have to combine a whole variety of different aspects for it all to come together,” Jeuschede said. “You have to be very technical, very graceful and have a good feel for your body in order to get a good throw off every time with the strength you build.” ISU assistant coach Glenn Smith wants to see his athletes have a breakout weekend individually after a strong
[Gomez] has something that’s just intangible as to the way she approaches the game.” ISU coach Stacy Gemeinhardt-Cesler
Along with her base-running abilities, Gomez’s production offensively from the lead-off spot has been equally useful for the Cyclones. Gomez set another ISU single-season record last season in runs scored with 50. She also led the team in hitting with a .361 average and 66 total hits, which earned her All-Big 12 SecondTeam honors. Following that performance, Gomez remains on pace to set personal bests in batting average, on-base percentage and hits. With seven games remaining during the regular season, Gomez holds a .405 batting average, 66 total hits and an on-base percentage of .455.
showing at the Drake Relays. “The main focus [at Drake] was put into the team relays and I think it was very strong,” Smith said. “We have had a very competitive season with a ton of competitive competition and I am excited to see it continue this weekend.” Smith has been hoping that this consistent high-level competition all year long, along with the consistent trips to warm-climate meets, would make the team stronger in the end. “This season we did something different than prior seasons, even though I wasn’t here last year, by heading to more warm-climate meets to give our athletes the best chances to succeed and put good times out there,” Smith said. One athlete in particular that Smith and others are excited to see this weekend is freshman Derek Jones. “[I’m] really looking forward to seeing the 400 hurdlers this weekend. They all have been running really strong,” Smith said. “I’m especially excited to see Derek out there because this is the weekend that he needs to get into the 50-51 [second] range.” Jones has been a consistent runner all season long for the Cyclones, and he is viewing this weekend’s meet as the time to finally meet his and his coach’s goal. “This is the weekend I definitely have to hit 51, for sure,” Jones said. “I know I can do it, but now I just have to go out there and show it.” Although Jones is running at a high level as a freshman, he hasn’t forgotten where he came from and what got him to be at this place in his career. “[It] feels kind of surreal to be competing at this point in college. I can remember a year ago when I ran at Drake and now I am running there for Iowa State,” Jones said. “I feel blessed to be doing this already as a freshman and at the point that I am in this outdoor season.”
It’s also the speed she possesses that makes her a threat during every at-bat. “It’s important having her at the top of the order; she makes the defense scramble right from the get-go,” said ISU outfielder Sarah Hawryluk. “Even though she’s small, she’s intimidating. She can hit, slap and bunt, which gets the defense on their heels.” For the second time in two seasons, Gomez has recorded more than 60 hits, making her the only ISU player to accomplish such a feat. Already the center fielder has recorded four hits in a single game three times this season. Gomez also recorded a fourstolen base game against North Dakota back on March 8. Gomez’s speed in center field is a vital component to Iowa State’s defense. Her range is capable of giving the ISU pitchers confidence in knowing if the ball is in play going out to center field, there is a good chance Gomez will chase it down. “I’ve played next to her right from her freshman year,”
Hawryluk said. “It’s been fun seeing her develop into a strong leader in the outfield.” Despite this only being her sophomore season, Gomez has displayed an aptitude for leadership and taken it seriously. “You don’t come across people like her very often,” Gemeinhardt-Cesler said. “She works hard on the field and in the classroom; she’s someone who shows up everyday.” Gomez will continue to be a catalyst as the Cyclones, who are 22-25-1 overall and 2-10 in the Big 12, are still in search of finishing the season above .500. With three games each against Big 12 opponents Texas Tech, Baylor and Kansas, the Cyclones will have their work cut out for them in order to finish with a winning record. Gomez’s main goal remains winning ball games and helping her team any way possible. “My goal is to get on base for my teammates to hit me in,” Gomez said. “We just want to win the games we’re capable of winning and keep improving.”