Newcomer Crystal Nelson contributes to women’s cross-country ranking

Emily Hejlik

The second-ranked ISU women’s cross-country team is just days away from trying to obtain the title of Big 12 Champions again. In the meantime, it continues to rack up the honors.

No. 5 in the previous poll, the women moved up to No. 2 nationally after winning — by a large margin — against a field that included 17 ranked teams at the Wisconsin Adidas Invitational. 

“Everyone is excited about the second overall ranking in the country,” said Betsy Saina, who has been named an All-American runner. “It’s a testament to our hard work and will motivate people even more to perform well.”

In addition to the team’s honor, Saina was named the Big 12 Cross-Country Runner of the Week. Saina tried to downplay its importance, as she credited her teammates for her success.

“I didn’t think much about it,” Saina said. “I think it not only shows the success I have had this year, but the success of everyone on this team as well.”

Another key contributor to the Cyclones most recent accomplishments is freshman Crystal Nelson.

Crystal, a native of Winchester, Va., came in 26th and was Iowa State’s third finisher behind All-Americans Saina and Meaghan Nelson (no relation) at the Wisconsin Adidas Invitational last Friday, Oct. 19. Crystal covered the 6,000-meter course in 20:10.

Crystal also made her mark with a 22nd-place finish at the Roy Griak meet in Falcon Heights, Minn. She was the fifth finisher for the Cyclones and ran a personal best by almost two minutes.

“The way I train here at Iowa State has been key,” Crystal said. “I have learned to take my easy days easy, while putting all my energy into the days we have practice. I give all the credit to coach [Corey] Ihmels.”

Others who have been paramount toward Crystal Nelson’s achievements are teammates Saina and Meaghan.

“I was star-struck when I first came to Iowa State,” Crystal said. “I’ve learned so much from them. They always are giving me great advice especially before meets — they tell me to stay calm and be mentally prepared. Your best is your best.”

With the individual and team attainments, Meaghan said it is crucial that everyone stays focused.

“We had high goals coming into the season,” Meaghan said. “It’s awesome how these goals have come to fruition, but we have to stay smart and follow the plan. Like coach Ihmels said: The only thing it really gave us is the ability to screw it up. The pressure is on us now.”