Women win back to back regional titles, qualify for nationals


Photo: Jordan Maurice/Iowa State Daily

The ISU women’s cross-country team competes in the Iowa Intercollegiate on Sept. 17 in Ames. The Cyclones won the NCAA Midwest Regional title Saturday and qualified for the National Cross Country Championships on Nov. 21.

Caitlyn Diimig

For the second year in the row, the women’s team won the NCAA Midwest Regional title and qualified for the NCAA National Cross Country Championships, to be hosted on Nov. 21 in Terre Haute, Ind.

The women’s team won with 64 points, easily beating out second-place finisher Oklahoma State, which scored 119 points in DeKalb, Ill., on Saturday.

“I thought they handled the pressure well,” said coach Corey Ihmels. “Our front four looked really, really good.”

The women’s team scored four in the top 10, earning juniors Betsy Saina and Meaghan Nelson, senior Dani Stack and sophomore Morgan Casey All-Region honors.

During the race, Casey said she was amazed at how well she was doing, placing behind Stack by only seven seconds.

“I’m still kind of in shock,” Casey said. “I just looked up all of the sudden, and I realized Dani was seven seconds ahead of me. At first I thought, ‘Oh no, has something happened to Dani?'”

Casey quickly realized Stack was not hurt, but instead Casey was running as fast as Stack.

“She had the race of her career so far,” Ihmels said of Casey.

Casey finished in 21:16.14.

Iowa State scored four women before any team could score a second runner in the 6,000-meter race.

“I’m not surprised things are starting to come together,” Ihmels said. “They’ve worked really hard all year long.”

Saina was runner-up for the second year in a row, losing out to Aliphine Tuliamuk, a former ISU runner, now at Wichita State. Saina ran the course in 20:53.01.

This is Iowa State’s winningest season for the women since Ihmels has been coach. The women have only been defeated once, at the Wisconsin Adidas Invitational in which they took ninth.

“The group as a whole wants to do really well,” Ihmels said. “Even though cross-country is an individual sport, if you’ve got a group of young ladies that buy into what the program wants them to do and they care about each other, then I think it’s skies the limit.”

Four women helping to earn last year’s eighth-place finish at nationals will be returning.

Last year, Stack competed but did not score points for the team and Nelson did not compete at all at nationals.

Both Nelson and Stack have consistently been within the top three scorers for the Cyclones, which may help push this year’s team to an even higher finish at nationals.

“I think if we have the race we’re capable of having, we could be one of those teams at nationals that’s up on the podium,” Casey said. “There’s a lot of a good teams this year, but we’re one of them.”

The men’s team finished sixth with a score of 182, failing to qualify for nationals.

“It was disappointing to finish that way,” Ihmels said. “But I felt like the guys went out and competed hard and put it out there and had a chance to do some things at the end but just didn’t execute it.”

Taking first in the men’s division was Oklahoma State with 42 points.

Senior Rico Loy was hopeful for an individual bid to nationals, but placed 18th with a time of 31:41.50 on the 10,000-meter course.

After competing in both his freshman and sophomore years at nationals, Loy missed out on qualifying individually last year as well.

“It’s kind of sad that it was my last year,” Loy said. “I really wanted to do better, but I’m looking forward to track season.”