Women finish seventh in nation to cap season


Photo:Kendra Plathe/Iowa State Daily

The women’s cross-country team runs laps during an indoor practice at Lied Recreation Athletic Center on Tuesday, Nov. 8. The Cyclones won their first-ever Big 12 title Oct. 29 at the Pebble Creek Country Club in College Station, Texas.

Caitlyn Diimig

It was a bittersweet seventh-place finish at the NCAA National Cross Country Championships for the women’s team on Nov. 21 in Terre Haute, Ind.

The team outdid last year’s eighth-place finish and had the highest team finish since placing second in 1985, but was only nine points shy of a podium finish.

“Our top three ran so well,” said coach Corey Ihmels. “Not to place a little higher was a little disappointing.”

Iowa State was the only team in the race to score three All-Americans — senior Dani Stack and juniors Meaghan Nelson and Betsy Saina.

Saina led the Cyclones, placing ninth out of 254 runners on the 6,000-meter course in 19:50.7.

“I was just so excited,” Saina said about her top 10 finish.

Nelson and Stack finished 17th and 30th overall to nab All-American honors as well for the Cyclones.

Nelson did not run at last year’s national meet due to stress fractures and said a year ago she would have just wanted to be in the top 100.

“That was my goal at the beginning of the year: to be top 40 and [become an] All-American,” Nelson said.

Stack also said her goal was to be in the top 40.

“I definitely redeemed myself,” Stack said. “I really wanted to be an All-American and I accomplished that.”

Last year, Stack collapsed 200 meters from the finish line and was unable to finish the national race.

“If Dani didn’t have that experience last year, she probably wouldn’t have ran as well as she did this year,” Ihmels said.

The Cyclones scored 290 points while fifth-place finisher Oregon scored 281 points and sixth-place finisher Vanderbilt scored 282. Georgetown won the national title with 162 points scored and its five scored running placing in the top 50.

Ihmels said this year’s race also will be a learning experience for runners returning next year, which is all but Stack and senior India Lee. He said he hopes they remember the feeling of being so close to a podium finish next year.

“Initially, it wasn’t a very fun feeling,” Ihmels said. “Even though you’re seventh, one of the best teams in the country, you can almost taste a little bit better.”

The Cyclones faulted when Lee — their fifth runner and final point scorer —was unable to place higher than her 172nd-place finish.

“You can’t win a trophy with a number five in 200th place,” Ihmels said. “It’s just too many points.”

The team hopes to continue to improve at next year’s national race.

“I know I’m not going to be happy going back and just finishing sixth next year,” Ihmels said.