Cross-country teams see room for improvement


Photo:Kendra Plathe/Iowa State Daily

Junior Meaghan Nelson and senior Dani Stack run laps during cross-country practice at Lied Recreation Athletic Center on Tuesday, Nov. 8. Nelson finished second in the Big 12 Conference 6,000-meter race with a time of 19:33.80 while Stack finished sixth, both earning All-Big 12 honors. 

Mark Specht

The ISU men’s and women’s cross-country teams aren’t allowing themselves to stand pat even amid recent success at the Roy Griak Invitational on Sept. 29.

The women’s team finished first overall at Griak, while the men’s team finished second. The women placed five runners in the top 25 at Griak, taking first, second, 10th, 16th and 22nd in the race.

Outside of the top five, the women struggled. The six, seven and eight runners for the women took 42nd, 53rd and 60th places, respectively.

“I think [the women’s team] did a really really good job racing-wise,” said ISU assistant coach Travis Hartke. “I think we had a top-five that kind of appeared — but in the six, seven, eight, nine, that group of runners, it’s a group that needs to step up.”

On the men’s side, ISU coach Cory Ihmels believes the team needs “a couple of guys to come to the fore to be the leaders upfront.”

To get those runners to the fore, Ihmels thinks the team needs to be more aggressive “when the gun goes off.”

Hartke said some of the men need to work on staying healthy during the race season.

“With training and racing, you’ve got to know how to recover,” Hartke said. “It comes down to the workouts we do every day, it comes down to how do you recover from those workouts and what you’re doing to keep yourself healthy.

“The reason why some of our guys were in the positions they were in was more so because they were a little banged up — because from a recovery aspect, I don’t think they’ve done a great job of it.”

Saina, Nelson perform well at Griak

Seniors Betsy Saina and Meaghan Nelson finished first and second for the Cyclone women at Griak, but to take the team title, the women needed the strong finishes they received from junior Samantha Bluske (10), sophomore Katy Moen (16) and true freshman Crystal Nelson (22).

“Our one-two took care of business, and I think we now know where they’re at and we’re seeing that our three through eight,” Bluske said. “We’re the ones that are going to start making the difference when it comes time towards the end of the season. Betsy and Meaghan can’t do much more.”

Hartke thinks the races by Bluske and Moen were the most positive they have had since coming to Iowa State, and called Nelson’s finish as a freshman “amazing.”

Bluske raced unattached for the Cyclones last year after transferring from Illinois State. Griak was her first race for the women’s team.

“I think [Bluske] was not satisfied by any stretch of the imagination, but I think it was a good start for her, and I think for her just getting that first one out of the way was probably a big sigh of relief,” Ihmels said.

Like Hartke, Ihmels was also impressed by Nelson’s race and praised her for her composure.

“She doesn’t get too excited one way or the other and just goes out and does her job,” Ihmels said. “To do that as a true freshman, that’s a great start for her.”