Women’s cross country team boasts lofty expectations


Photo: Brandi Boyett/Iowa State Daily

The men’s cross-country team practices Monday, Aug. 20, on campus.

Emily Hejlik

The ISU women’s cross-country team is looking to start the season where they left off.

“We had a great season last year being conference champions and placing in the top ten at nationals,” said ISU head coach Corey Ihmels. “Even with the success of last year, we left nationals with a sour taste in our mouth by not making the top four. We have a lot to accomplish.”

The Cyclones placed three runners among the top-30 finishers to earn the team a seventh-place finish at the NCAA Cross Country Championships a season ago.

Returner Betsy Saina again earned All-America honors, pacing the squad with a ninth-place overall finish (19:50.7). Meaghan Nelson was 17th (20:05.0), followed by Dani Stack in 30th (20.21.9). All three earned All-America honors. Sophomore Morgan Casey placed 104th and senior India Lee placed 208th. Taylor Petersen finished 217th and Katy Moen placed 248th in the field.

The performance was Iowa State’s best national finish since placing second in 1985, improving on an eighth place finish in 2010.

Meaghan Nelson’s stellar junior year was capped off by competing in the 10,000 meter run at the 2012 Olympic Trials. The senior has high expectations going into her final season.

“I want to improve from last year and be in the top 10 at nationals this year,” Nelson said. “I’ll look to do this by building off of the success I’ve had and focus on getting better with each performance.”

Not only does Nelson have lofty expectations for herself, but for the team also.

“We want to win conference and regionals this season and nationals as well,” Nelson said. “As a team, we don’t think winning nationals is an unrealistic expectation. This is our goal, and we will train every day like we are going to obtain this goal.”

Nelson is excited for all the pieces to come together, emphasizing the importance the underclassmen will have on the team’s achievements.

“We have a lot of younger girls who have continued to improve,” Nelson said. “I’m looking forward to seeing the strides they’ve made — they will definitely need to contribute for us to be successful.”

Redshirt junior Emily Meese believes the quality of runners from top to bottom puts the team in a position to take that next step toward a national title.

“This is the best team we’ve had since I’ve been here; we are very deep,” Meese said. “We had a great summer and everyone coming in is ahead of where they were last season. We have the group to do something special.”

Accountability inside and outside practice will be key to achieve goals set by the group.

“When we sat down as a team to talk about our goals we focused on the things we can control,” Meese said. “We have to train like champions during practice as well as outside of practice. Eating well and eating enough is crucial.”

Leadership will be another key component to attain greatness.

“Our three All-Americans [Saina, Nelson and Stack] are back this season, providing us with tremendous leadership,” Ihmels said. “Dani is in her last year for track, and the returners will show the underclassmen how things are done. I couldn’t ask to be in a better spot.”

From a coach’s perspective, Ihmels has a unique outlook on things: “I need to worry more about the process rather than the end result. The young ladies are ready to bust out.”

The ISU women’s cross-country team will begin their quest for a national title Aug. 31 in Des Moines for the Drake Fall Classic.