The trifecta: Sania, Nelson, Stack to compete at nationals


Aliphine Tuliamuk (left) and Betsy Saina race the final lap during the women’s 5,000-meter run during the indoor season. 

Stephen Koenigsfeld

All season long, the distance side of the ISU women’s track team has been dominated by the same three runners. And this weekend, those runners will get their chance to shine at the NCAA Indoor Championships.

Juniors Betsy Saina, Meaghan Nelson and Dani Stack have all qualified for the 5,000-meter run at the indoor championships on Friday and Saturday. Saina and Stack will compete in the 3,000-meter run as well.

“Betsy is going to be one or two going into the meet, and I think Meaghan will probably be in the top eight,” said coach Corey Ihmels. “I think all three have a chance to be inside the top eight and all three will have a chance to score.”

Ihmels said all year long that the trio has been focused on the meets and what they have to do to accomplish their goals.

The three runners have started devising a plan for this weekend’s 5,000-meter run, where all three of the qualifiers will compete.

“Well, Betsy definitely has a shot at winning [the 5K],” Nelson said. “My goal is to hang on to Betsy as long as I can. And obviously we run really well when we run together; we kind of feed off each other. Ideally, we can have three girls in the top eight.”

On Monday, Stack said she was not quite sure about how to approach the meet. She did, however, agree that running together is always a benefit rather than running the race on her own.

The NCAA Indoor Championships are held in Boise, Idaho. The city sits at 2,492 feet above sea level, being 1,560 feet higher than the Lied Recreation Athletic Center in Ames, where the women practice.

Ihmels and Stack both commented on the drastic change in elevation.

“It’s going to be at altitude; you can’t predict things,” Ihmels said. “And you hope the race is honest and goes out at a good pace. But we’ve talked about it, and we’ll devise a good race plan … and then hopefully it goes the way we want it to.”

As far as from a runner’s perspective, Stack said she had not even thought about the change in altitude might make a difference.

“It’s at altitude, so I guess we’ll just see how we adjust to that,” Stack said. “We’ll be getting some pretty good runs in.”

All three runners will compete Friday night in the women’s 5,000-meter run, and Sania and Stack will be competing Saturday evening in the women’s 3,000-meter run. Saina is a heavily favored runner, as she is the No. 2 seed going into the 5K.