WATERLOO–Hawkeye RedTail Cross Country athlete Joanna Topham was named an All-America athlete by the National Junior College Cross Country Coaches Association.
The award recognizes U.S. athletes who finish in the top 40 at the National Junior College Athletic Association National Cross Country Championships. Topham finished 38th at nationals, which were held November 11, 2017, in Fort Dodge.
"To have an All-America athlete in our first year is huge for our program," said head coach Micah Ruroden. "For Joanna to achieve this in year one is a credit to her discipline."
Running comes naturally to Topham. Her father coaches girls cross country and track and field at Griswold High School, where she competed in both sports, and she has a sister currently running for Wichita State University.
"I started running when I was six," Topham said. "We're just a very athletic family."
Last summer, she ran 40-45 miles a week to prepare for her first collegiate season. The extra training gave her an edge early in competition, helping Topham shave 24 seconds off her personal record at the regional time trials held August 26, 2017, at Iowa Western Community College.
"I wanted to improve my time, and I knew I could do that this season," Topham said. "Breaking your best time isn't as easy as people think it is."
She put up solid times all season, but the final regular season contest offered one of the best moments for Topham. She took the Trent Smith Invitational women's title on October 18, 2017, in Mason City, setting new personal and school records with a 19:20 5K race.
"After I crossed the finish line I was in shock," she said. "Even 10 minutes later I couldn't believe I had won."
Fresh off a top-10 finish at regionals, Topham and the rest of the RedTail women headed into nationals ranked 24th in the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association poll. Topham was the top RedTail at the national meet and the only one to place in the top 50.
"It's such an honor and privilege to be able to get All-America status," Topham said. The season is only a few weeks behind her, but she's already looking forward to track and field in the spring, and how to improve for cross country season next fall. Her goal is to finish in the top 10.
"We think that she's just starting to scratch the surface of her true potential," said coach Ruroden. "We can't wait to see what is in store for her in the upcoming seasons."