ISU women win first-ever conference championship

Caitlyn Diimig

The women’s cross-country team took home the Big 12 Championship title for the first time in program history Saturday.

The women’s 6,000-meter race was held in College Station, Texas, and was a close one between Iowa State, Texas and Oklahoma State.

“Going into it, [winning the race] was the goal, and to actually accomplish the goal and one that isn’t necessarily easily achieved was really cool,” said junior Meaghan Nelson.

Nelson placed second overall in the women’s race with a time of 19:33.8. She was out-sprinted by Texas Tech’s Caroline Jepleting, a 2:05 800-meter runner, for first place overall just three seconds ahead of Nelson.

The race started out fast, Nelson said, with the first-mile pace floating around 5:20.

At the 3,000-meter mark, Nelson said she was able to close the gap and catch up with the top runners. With only 2,000 meters to go, third-place finisher Rose Tanui from Texas Tech kept surging to leave Nelson behind.

“There was never a comfortable point,” Nelson said of that moment.

Nelson was eventually able to pull ahead of Tanui and stay ahead of her for good.

“At conference, every point matters,” Nelson said. “I was going to do my best to make sure no one passed me. Every time they tried to, I knew I had to buckle down and fight back.

“I knew if I let go, I would let go for the rest of the race.”

Senior Dani Stack placed sixth and junior Betsy Saina placed 13th, both of whom were said to not be happy about their performances.

“By any stretch of the imagination, we didn’t have a perfect race,” said coach Corey Ihmels.

To improve before Regionals on Nov. 12, Nelson said the team needs to be more consistent.

“[Stack and Saina] can run better than me,” Nelson said.

The Cyclones also experienced some inconsistency with their fifth runner, who is their final point-scorer, in past races.

Junior Taylor Petersen stepped up for the team when the Cyclones’ usual top runner, senior India Lee, had an off race.

“She was huge for us,” Ihmels said of Petersen.

Petersen placed 27th and ran a 20:46.0 in the race to round out scoring for the Cyclones.

“It’s the most fun I’ve had yet in my entire cross-country career,” Petersen said.

Before the race, Ihmels said he told Petersen someone would be a surprise and he hoped it would be somebody on their team. That surprise was Petersen.

“I had a feeling she was going to have a big day,” Ihmels said of Petersen.

Men’s team finishes fifth in Big 12 Championships

In the men’s race, the Cyclones placed fifth in the conference for the second year in a row.

Senior Rico Loy led the team, placing 12th and finishing the 8,000-meter race in 24:08.0.

“I’m really happy with my race individually,” Loy said. “But for the team as a whole, I would have liked to get third or fourth and beat Texas or Texas A&M.”

Ihmels said he was hoping the team also would beat Texas A&M in order to earn points toward Nationals. However, he said he hopes now that the Cyclones will out-run Minnesota at Regionals to earn enough points to qualify for Nationals on Nov. 21.