Ames native competes for Cyclones one last year

Caitlyn Diimig

Mattel might as well have gotten its inspiration for Workout Barbie from senior Kersten Thorgaard.

Her blonde hair sits messily on top of her head and she wears a neon yellow sports bra with bright pink spandex bottoms. Diamond hoops adorn her ears.

“She’s a girly girl yet she’s a determined athlete,” said Leesa Thorgaard, Kersten’s mom. “There’s not a lot of fuss to Kersten.”

For those who believe Barbie has a negative connotation, Kersten is no dumb blonde. She has won Academic Big 12 honors all three years of her current elgibility.

“She’s always been a good student,” Leesa said. “School and track are first on her list.” 

Thorgaard started running when she was 12 years old. She competed in Hershey’s Track and Field races and then became involved in Ames Impact Track Club and U.S.A. Track and Field Club.

As she grew older, Thorgaard joined the cross country team at Ames High School.

“When I was younger I started out as a 100-meter runner type,” Kersten said. “Then when I moved to high school, I just did cross country for fun and ended up being not too bad at it.”

Thorgaard was awarded Elite All-State honors in cross country in 2004, 2006 and 2007 and had many offers from division one schools such as Minnesota and Wisconsin. However, she decided to stay and run in her hometown for Iowa State.

“I knew that the program was up and coming and I was just really excited about the direction it was heading in when I first got here,” Kersten said. 

However, Thorgaard’s passion lies more in track than cross country.

ISU coach Corey Ihmels understands her skills lie mostly on the crimson oval.

“We’re going to depend on her a lot at 800 meters,” Ihmels said. “She’s going to be one of the athletes that we’re going to expect to be a difference-maker for us at that distance.”

Thorgaard’s running career at Iowa State hasn’t been as smooth as it was in high school.

“Her college career has been a few flashes of brilliance but never able to really put one great season together,” Ihmels said.

Ihmels said Thorgaard worked hard this summer and that her dedication will pay off.

“I think she’s really going to have the senior year she wants to have,” Ihmels said. “I think that’s a culmination of a lot of the ups and downs the last four years.”

Teammate, senior Dani Stack also believes Thorgaard’s dedication will pay off.

“She works really hard for it,” Stack said. “She has everything really well-balanced and I think that shows when she competes and she competes really hard.”

This is Thorgaard’s last season to compete at the collegiate level. She will graduate this summer with a degree in marketing.

Thorgaard will take a break from competitive racing although she may partake in a few road races here and there.

“I’ll always run just for the pure enjoyment of it and exercise,” Kersten said.