Kemboi, Nelson, Elahi score at NCAA Outdoor Championships

Kiana Elahi runs in the 400-meter hurdle race during the NCAA Track Championships on Friday, June 9, 2012 at Drake Stadium in Des Moines. Elahi finished seventh overall.

Stephen Koenigsfeld

Des Moines — The 2012 NCAA Outdoor Championships were as exciting as ever, and with eight Cyclones competing for national titles, the excitement was even greater.

The Cyclones advanced their first athlete into a final heat with Edward Kemboi in the 800-meter run. Kemboi said the race felt good and exciting.

Usually with about 200-meters left in his race Kemboi would use his kick, which he said he is in love with, and make his final moves. On Wednesday, June 6, 2012, Kemboi kicked, but so did the rest of the field.

“I’m in love with my kick, and I believe in my kick,” Kemboi said. “With 200-meters to go I was looking around to see who was going. And finally, I thought ‘now is the time to go.'”

Next on the list for final qualifiers was hurdler Kianna Elahi. The senior hurdler pushed through the pain and gritted her way to a second place qualifying position.

“I am so incredibly thankful,” Elahi said. “I was supposed to push the last three [hurdles] … and that’s something that has been improving.”

As she rounded the final turn, Elahi seemed to be right with the lead pack of women. It was only in the last 50-meters that it became apparent Elahi would qualify for the final event.

The final event of Thursday’s competition was the 10,000-meter run, where distance runner Meaghan Nelson posted a fourth place finish.

On lap 18 of the 25-lap race, the top 11 runners paced around the track, keeping each other in check. With five laps remaining, the top four set a new, blistering pace. Nelson remained fourth.

“When 10ks are more tactical, you tend to have bigger groups stick together,” Nelson said. “We definitely had a bigger group at the beginning … and then Natosha [Rogers] and Deborah [Maier] and Aliphine [Tuliamuk] took off with five to go.”

Nelson earned not only five points for her fourth place finish, but also earned All-American honors for the third time this year.

Friday afternoon kicked off for the Cyclones with Elahi running in the 400-meter hurdle finals. Elahi was up against some of the best competitors in the nation, but she said it didn’t faze her.

“It was exciting. I didn’t feel as intimidated today as I might have,” Elahi said. “I know that they’re really fast and really talented, but it was mostly just exciting.”

Elahi was thankful for being able to compete at the national competition. After a long week of running, she said she was heading home to spend one last evening with her teammates before they parted ways for the summer.

The final ISU athlete competing was Kemboi in his final heat of the 800-meter run. Kemboi said this race felt a little different.

“With 200-meter to go, it was really congested,” Kemboi said. “I had to go wide.”

Kemboi ended up in the third lane as he crossed the finish line. Kemboi said his race felt good, and he didn’t have to rely on his kick as much this time around.

The only track and field meets left this summer are the Olympic Trials and Olympic Games. Elahi and Nelson will travel to Eugene, Ore., later in June to compete for positions on the U.S. track and field team.