ISU women’s cross-country hopes to build off momentum from Griak Invitational


Photo: William Deaton/Iowa State

ISU cross-country runner Crystal Nelson makes her way down a slope during the 6K run during the NCAA Cross-Country National Championships on Nov. 17 at E.P. Tom Sawyer Park. Nelson would finish the race in 16th place. Cyclones traveled to Louisville, Ky., to compete and finished 11th as a team while ISU runner Betsy Saina finished first as an individual.

Ryan Young

Amid the rain and the wind, the ISU women’s cross-country team came ready to compete on Saturday and took fifth place at the 28th annual Roy Griak Invitational this weekend.

This meet marks the first major competition for the Cyclones, and their first 6K meet of the season.

“We tried not to make this meet too big of a deal, because we want to keep improving. We don’t want to reach our peak now,” said ISU coach Andrea Grove-McDonough. “This is really the opener, and it was a solid day.”

Crystal Nelson, the first Cyclone to finish the race, came in third overall with a time of 20:50.

The Winchester, Va., native was competing in her first meet of the season. Nelson was leading the pack for a large portion of the race and was only 14 seconds off the leader.

“I think I got a little excited when I pulled ahead to lead for a while,” Nelson said. “But I felt pretty good out there. We were really supportive of each other today.”

This meet also marks the first for freshman Bethanie Brown, who finished 21st. While Browns performance might surprise some, it did not shock Grove-McDonough much.

“Actually, that’s kind of what I expected from her,” Grove-McDonough said. “She’s a good runner, who can go out there and score us points. That’s what she did, and that’s hopefully what she will do for us in the future.”

But as for Brown, she had no idea what to expect for her first collegiate race.

“I didn’t know what to really expect for my first time out there,” Brown said. “I just tried to stay calm and climb my way up. It was really cool to race with such good, fast competition.”

Sophomore Perez Rotich finished 17th on Saturday, and co-captain Katy Moen took 28th. Ejiro Okoro was the next Cyclone to finish, coming in at 50th.

The Cyclones were without senior co-captain Samantha Bluske, who suffered a foot injury last week in practice. Bluske still traveled with the team and received support from her teammates on Twitter.

“Sam is such a great leader on this team,” said co-captain Maggie Gannon. “Not having her is a huge loss to the team. But this is a chance for some new girls to step up and fill her shoes.”

Iowa State finished ahead of three higher-ranked opponents this weekend, beating No. 20 Vanderbilt, No. 21 North Carolina and No. 23 San Francisco. It was also one of five teams to have four runners finish among the top 30 individuals.

While Grove-McDonough is proud of the team’s efforts, she noted that Iowa State’s work is not yet complete.

“We need to keep building and really get after it between now and our next meet,” Grove-McDonough said. “We need to want to be better, and ultimately keep moving forward so we can be where we need to be come November.”