ISU women’s 4×1600 relay “heading in the right direction” with historic performance

Senior+Ejiro+Okoro+runs+in+the+4x1600+relay+during+the+womens+final+at+the+Drake+Relays+on+April+24+at+Drake+Stadium.+Iowa+State+placed+second+with+a+school+best+time+of+19%3A13%3A62.

Senior Ejiro Okoro runs in the 4×1600 relay during the women’s final at the Drake Relays on April 24 at Drake Stadium. Iowa State placed second with a school best time of 19:13:62.

Kyle Kubiak

DES MOINES — The Drake Relays has proved itself to be one of the biggest stages for track and field athletes from all across the country. The ISU women’s 4×1600-meter relay team stepped onto that stage in the first day of competition and left it by finishing with the fastest time in program history.

Iowa State’s squad was made up of Bethanie Brown, Ejiro Okoro, Katy Moen and Crystal Nelson. The team claimed second-place honors behind Washington in a time of 19:13.62.

Brown, a freshman that typically runs in longer distance races, started off the relay for the Cyclones.

“It was exciting to do a 1,600 since I haven’t done one in a while,” Brown said. “It was a nice change of pace from the 5K.”

She was forced to work from the back of the pack from the start of the gun after getting boxed in during the first lap.

“The race went out really slow, but the leaders picked it up in the last two laps, so I just tried to go with them,” Brown said.

Slowly, but surely, Brown eventually passed the majority of her competitors in the final lap and handed off the baton to Ejiro Okoro in third place.

Okoro, who was making her 2014 outdoor season debut at the relays due to a prior bone bruise injury, took the baton and briefly fell to fifth place toward the end of her final lap.

“I was so grateful to God for being able to come back and run the time I did as I have had a bone bruise earlier in the season,” Okoro said. “The bone bruise just added to my fire.”

The two-time All-American was not phased and used her strong kick, that is so often seen in her 800-meter and 1600-meter races, to pull her team into the second position at the race’s halfway point.

Running the third leg for the Cyclones was Katy Moen, who kept her team in second place for the entirety of her 1,600-meter leg. She was paced comfortably behind the lead-squad of Washington when handing off the baton to Crystal Nelson for the final leg.

Nelson, who is also typically seen running in longer distance events, ran the fastest split of the four Cyclones at 4:45.50.

“The race went better than I expected it to go. Since I’m more of a distance runner, I was a bit nervous to run such a quick race,” Nelson said. “However, I just latched on to Katie Flood ahead of me and tried to hang with her for as long as possible.”

Nelson was unable to catch Flood, who is a Dowling Catholic alum, and the Cyclones fell right behind Washington just three seconds after.

“I knew Katie had good foot speed since she won the NCAAs two years ago in the 1,500,” Nelson said. “It was a great experience to run with people of such high caliber. All in all, the race went great for all of us. We all ran to the best of our ability and I couldn’t be more proud of my teammates.

All four of the runners posted sub-4:50 splits in the event and the team broke the previous mark of 19:14.80 by 1.18 seconds.

“We all ran so well with great times and patience. We didn’t even have a goal to go out and set a school record, but we ended up doing it, so that was a glorious thing to do,” Okoro said. “It’s a joy.”

Three of the women, except for Okoro who is a senior, will be coming back to compete for Iowa State next year with the hopes to break the record they set, but grab first place as well.

“It’s a blessing and such a great achievement to know our program is just moving forward and setting new standards to accomplish,” Okoro said. “We’re heading in the right direction.”