A special, surprise visit
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The University of Iowa field hockey team received a special visit from surprise guests Wednesday, April 23 at Grant Field. These were not just any guests; they included the president and chief executive officer of the International Hockey Federation (FIH), field hockey's governing body.
FIH president Leandro Negre and CEO Kelly Fairweather were joined at Grant Field by the UI field hockey team, representatives from Musco Lighting, UI director of athletics Gary Barta, senior associate director of athletics Jane Meyer, associate athletics director Paula Jantz, and former UI women's director of athletics Dr. Christine Grant.
"We received a phone call today from Musco Lighting that the FIH dignitaries were going to be here, so we were fortunate enough to have the president and CEO visiting Iowa City," says UI head coach Tracey Griesbaum.
For the Hawkeyes, it was a rare opportunity to meet and converse with the sport's top representatives.
"It was amazing to visit with the people that run the sport of field hockey," says UI junior Dani Hemeon of Gilroy, California. "You hear about these people, but you never think they will be in Iowa City at the field you play on. Of all the schools in the United States, they are visiting Iowa."
Fond memories returned for the visitors upon seeing the Hawkeye team practicing at Grant Field.
"I was a hockey player and being here at this facility made me feel like an athlete again," says Negre. "I played goalkeeper at the (1968) Olympics in Mexico with my national team. I am very pleased to see these girls playing because I am very close to the sport."
"It means a lot," says Fairweather. "I was a coach way back when, so it is always good to see committed people—you can see how much passion they have for the game and for the team. The team, a combination of a few athletes from Europe and all over the United States, was really pleasing to see."
Negre and Fairweather have seen numerous field hockey facilities across the world, yet complimented Grant Field.
"The facility is fantastic," says Negre. "It was a great surprise. I did not expect to find such a beautiful facility."
"We were not expecting this," says Fairweather. "This is a fantastic hockey facility. We flew over it on the way in, and it looks better here than from the air."
It was equally special for the Hawkeyes to show the facility to such highly esteemed field hockey representatives.
FIH President Leandro Negre presents an FIH pin to Natalie Cafone. Photo by Brian Ray.
"For them to see the pride... this is a top-notch facility and well maintained... they have been around the world," says Griesbaum. "For them to say this is a wonderful facility was really neat. That is an educated field hockey eye saying that."
The dignitaries brought pins for the team, and in exchange, the Hawkeyes presented them with Iowa hats and shirts. Overall, it was an experience neither party is likely to forget.
"It was unbelievable," says Griesbaum. "For the coaching staff, we have played and traveled internationally, but for our athletes, not all of them have played outside the country. The pins are customary; we exchange pins in our sport. It was a nice gesture. When I go to the World Cup, I hope to see an Iowa field hockey hat being worn."