Cyclone track and field athletes litter the leader board at USA Championships


Photo: Rebekka Brown/Iowa State Daily

Dani Stack (left) and Meaghan Nelson participated in the women’s 5,000-meter run. Stack finished fourth with a time of 15:57.20, and Nelson finished third with a time of 15:51.89.

Alex Gookin

Only a 40-minute drive separates Iowa State’s campus from Drake Stadium. So, when the USA Track and Field Championships selected the famous blue track in Des Moines to host the event in 2013, Iowa State was nearly handed home-field advantage.

Cyclone track and field athletes were also handed an opportunity to compete against world-class competition in their own backyard. With 12 current, former and soon-to-be Cyclone athletes competing in the national event, the Cyclones once again proved Iowa State to be a top-tier track and field school.

Six of those athletes qualified for the Senior Division, the more prestigious of the two divisions at the USA Championships. Among those was long-distance runner Meaghan Nelson, an outgoing Cyclone senior.

Nelson qualified for the 10,000-meter run along with Cyclone teammate Dani Stack and former teammate and Olympian Lisa (Koll) Uhl. The added pressure of racing against some of the best athletes in the world did not seem to bother Nelson, who finished 11th in a field of 21 runners.

“She was kind of injured heading into nationals, and didn’t run very well, but she came out and ran really well at the USAs,” said assistant coach Travis Hartke.

The 11th place finish places Nelson as one of the fastest long-distance runners in the nation along with her Cyclone teammates Uhl (9th place) and Stack (13th). For Nelson, the finish is a positive start to what she hopes to now make a career.

“I’ve made the decision to commit myself to running in the next year and give professional running a shot,” Nelson said. “In September, sometime, I’m planning on moving out and training with Coach Ihmels in Boise. Ideally, [I hope to] get some races in and be able to do this as a job for a while.”

Stack finished two spots behind Nelson in a consistent showing for the Cyclone women in the 10k run, but an injury sustained in March held the outgoing senior back from what she hoped to do at the USA Championships. Like Nelson, she hopes to keep competing past college.

“Overall, I think it was progress from the last few 10ks I ran this year, but at the same time I think there is a lot of work to be done,” Stack said. “I’m hoping to still keep competitive and keep training … I think I still have some uncapped potential that hasn’t shown yet.”

While Nelson and Stack raced for the last time as Cyclones, other Cyclone athletes, current and incoming, had solid showings at the USA Championships.

Cyclone freshman Kevin Poster was the first Cyclone to place in an event, finishing seventh in the triple jump in the Junior Division. The jump of 47-9.25 was one of the best jumps of his short Cyclone career.

Two other freshman Cyclone men competed in Junior events, with Caleb Abfall finishing 11th in the 3,000-meter Steeplechase and Nick Jackosky finishing 23rd in the 5,000-meter run.

In field events, the Cyclone women notched two more top-10 finishes in the Senior Shot-put event. Redshirt senior Danielle Frere finished seventh with a throw of 55-00.00, only the second time in her career to eclipse the 55-foot mark. Sophomore Christina Hillman finished ninth, with a throw of 53-11.25.

The Des Moines event attracted premiere competition from around the country. Cyclone athletes often competed against some of the world’s best athletes.

Redshirt sophomore Cameron Ostrowski tied a career high with a jump of 7-02 1/2 in the high jump to land him a fifth-place finish. The event was won by 2012 Olympic silver medalist, Erik Kynard (7-05 3/4).

“[Ostrowski] has had a long layoff from jumping and jumped the qualifier last week, hasn’t had too much practice,” said Hartke. “He was probably the most impressive overall.”

While the event featured current and former Cyclone athletes, future Cyclone stars also competed in both senior and junior events. The experience, said Hartke, helps the athletes grow faster than other events would.

“It’s a great experience to give them a feel like that, where there were some of the top athletes from across the U.S.,” Harkte said. “It helps them evolve a lot quicker than if they hadn’t done it.”

For incoming freshman Anna Holdiman, the experience resulted in two more top-10 Cyclone finishes in separate events. The future Cyclone finished 10th in the Junior 5,000-meter run after finishing second in the Junior 3,000-meter run.

The promise showed during the 2013 USA Track and Field Championships is a positive sign for incoming Director of Track and Field/Cross Country, Martin Smith. As the NCAA Champion coach joins the Cyclones, some members of the team will be a step ahead.

“I think it’s just good for the program and Iowa State in general to represent the Cyclones and represent the program that’s being built over the last couple years,” said Stack. “It shows all the hard work we, as Cyclone athletes, have put in.”