Andrea Grove-McDonough establishes relationship with team, prepares for first race


ISU cross-country runner Katy Moen 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. Moen would finish 139th out of the 253 total runners. The ISU team placed 11th as a team.

Ryan Young

The ISU women’s cross-country team has high hopes yet again for the upcoming season. The defending regional champions — and two-time Big 12 champions — are under new leadership this year.

Head Coach Andrea Grove-McDonough will lead the nationally ranked team this season. The women’s team is currently ranked third in the region and 26th in the nation, despite the loss of seniors Betsy Saina and Meaghan Nelson. The duo finished first and second, respectively, at last year’s Big 12 Championship.

“It’s a tough blow to any program when it loses its top two girls,” Grove-McDonough said. “But I just need to make sure I can get my girls excited and get them to know that they’re here to bring home a title.”

Last week, the Cyclones attended a week-long training camp in Boone, Iowa to officially start workouts and grow closer as a team. It’s something Grove-McDonough said they are going to need if they want to be a national championship contender.

“Camp was really the first meeting I had with the girls. It was a chance for me to put names to faces,” Grove-McDonough said. “I got to see the girls run and had individual meetings with all of them. It really sped up the process and gave us kind of a head start.”

Grove-McDonough also did something at the start of this season that the team hadn’t seen before. She named Sam Bluske, Katy Moen and Maggie Gannon team captains, something she feels will create a better bond with the team.

“I think it really establishes stronger relationships within the team,” Grove-McDonough said. “It’s an honor for the girls, and can give them something to strive for. And honestly, I think its pretty cool.”

The Cyclones will return four key runners this season. Along with Bluske and Moen, Crystal Nelson and Colleen Riley all finished in the top-20 at last year’s Big 12 championships.

“This year we kind of want to surprise people, and really have fun doing it,” Bluske said. “We do put in so much work, and it’s really easy to get caught up in everything instead of enjoying the process.”

The women kick off their season Friday at the Bulldog 4K Classic in Des Moines. While the top runners may not see the course, the team is still excited.

“I’m excited to know where the women are at,” Bluske said. “It’s a good chance to get the pre-season jitters out, and just get excited about racing again.”