Nelson progresses to possible All-America status

Junior Meaghan Nelson and senior Dani Stack run laps during cross-country practice at Lied Recreation Athletic Center on Tuesday, Nov. 8. Nelson finished second in the Big 12 Conference 6,000-meter race with a time of 19:33.80 while Stack finished sixth, both earning All-Big 12 honors. 

Caitlyn Diimig

A year ago, Meaghan Nelson did not have much to do with the women’s eighth-place finish at the NCAA Nationals.

Now, the team will not have much of a shot finishing in the top 10 without the senior from Cedar Rapids.

“She’s in a pretty newfound territory,” said coach Corey Ihmels. “She’s not used to being in the limelight, she’s not used to being up there with the top group.”

Nelson sat out last year’s cross-country season due to stress fractures.

After cross training, Nelson ran the Big 12 indoor track and field 5,000-meter race, placing 12th in the event. A few months later at the Drake Relays, she won the 5,000-meter race — a feat she said she thought was a fluke.

On Oct. 29, Nelson was runner-up at the Big 12 Championships by three seconds, having been out-sprinted by Texas Tech’s Caroline Jepleting for the top spot.

“She really battled,” Ihmels said of Nelson. “She tried to win the race.”

Ihmels said Nelson is the epitome of calm, cool and collected.

“It’s a great trait to have,” Ihmels said. “You can’t get too up or too low. You’ve got to be status-quo and that’s her personality.”

Before a race, Nelson said she does not like to get the team too hyped up.

“I try and keep people calm,” Nelson said. “I think that’s one thing I’m pretty good about, is staying level-headed before the race.”

Even though Nelson will not rile up her teammates, it does not mean she will not lend out words of wisdom.

“She’s always got a supportive word to say to you,” said senior India Lee. “She underplays herself; she’d never say how good she is. That’s a really good example for everyone else.”

Nelson said she feels prepared for the upcoming NCAA Regionals on Friday in DeKalb, Ill.

“I’m feeling more confident,” Nelson said. “Still not 100 percent, but Big 12’s definitely confirmed how I felt in my first two races of the year.”

Nelson previously placed 13th and ninth overall in two of the most competitive races of the year.

However, Ihmels said Nelson’s confidence would come with time.

“Her voicing that she’s maybe not confident and having those doubts before the last couple of races, I don’t think that’s a symbol of her not being confident in herself,” Ihmels said. “I think that’s just her coming to the realization, ‘Man, I’m pretty good.'”