Long-distance runners stand out at Iowa State


Runners start out the 5,000-meter run at the Iowa State Classic on Feb. 9 in Lied Recreation Center. ISU runners included Betsy Saina, who came in first with a record time of 15:29.66, Meaghan Nelson, Crystal Nelson, Samantha Bluske, Katy Moen, Perez Rotich and Taylor Petersen.

Isaac Copley

Long-distance runners at Iowa State have been busy this year, collecting accolades from nearly every meet they have competed in during the indoor season.

Headlined by a proven senior class including national champion Betsy Saina, Meaghan Nelson and Dani Stack, the long-distance runners have consistently competed with and beaten the best.

“The group of girls we have now are incredibly talented, and I think we have all bought in to coach [Corey] Ihmels’ training program,” Stack said. “We are all very dedicated to the life of a long-distance runner and we are lucky to have arguably the best women’s distance coach in the country.”

The long-distance runners showed their dominance at the Big 12 Indoor Championships this past February with Saina and Nelson taking first and second in the 5,000-meter run. Three other Cyclone women — Samantha Bluske, Crystal Nelson and Katy Moen — finished in the top 13.

In the 3,000-meter run at the Big 12 Indoors, the same five Cyclones had a solid performance with Saina and Nelson finishing first and second once again. Bluske, Moen and Crystal Nelson all finished within the top 11.

Saina went on to dominate the mile run as well, adding three Big 12 titles to her resume, while Stack finished sixth.

“Training with these girls has been very good; they are all fighters,” Saina said. “We all want to have success, and working toward that in training is easy because we all want the same thing.

“We want to win and we want to be the best.”

This group of Cyclone women have continued the tradition of successful long-distance runners that former ISU runner and NCAA national champion Lisa Uhl started during her career from 2007-10.

It was Uhl, then known as Lisa Koll, who started the dominating tear that ISU distance runners have been on.

Uhl won four-straight Big 12 Conference championships in the 5,000-meter run. In 2010, Uhl won both the 5,000-meter run and the 10,000-meter run at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, a feat only three other women have accomplished. Uhl was named the female track athlete of the year in her final season.

Saina has carried on with Iowa State’s success and has been the frontrunner of this group of Cyclone distance runners. Saina currently has the No. 1-ranked time in the world in the 5,000-meter run with a time of 15:21.66, which she recorded at the ISU Classic in early February.

How will the future of women’s long distance at Iowa State look next year? It may be too early to tell, but the current group anticipates making a lot more noise in the upcoming outdoor season.