ISU runners struggle at NCAA cross country meet

Zac Reicks

The two time defending champion Arkansas men’s team and the Colorado women’s team battled both the elements and a challenging course on their way to earn team titles at the 2000 NCAA Cross Country Championships held last Monday at the Iowa State Cross Country Course.

With temperatures dipping to 19 degrees below zero, the 31 men’s and women’s teams who competed were put to the ultimate physical test.

Colorado’s Kara Grgas Wheeler garnered the individual women’s title covering the 6,000 meter course in a time of 20:30.

Taking home top honors for the men, was Providence’s Keith Kelly, who took the mens top spot covering the 10,000 meters in a time of 30:14.

Iowa State had a lone representative from both the mens and women’s team competing on Monday.

Sophomore Kelly Brinkman finished 62nd out of 252 runners while senior Daniel Kinyua placed 58th out of 253 entrants for the ISU men.

Brinkman covered the course in a time of 21:38, much to her own dismay.

“I am a little disappointed because I tend to set high expectations for myself,” Brinkman said. “When things don’t go as well as I hope, I get pretty bummed out.”

Brinkman, running in her first NCAA Championship, said the cold weather did not play that big of a factor in her finish.

“For me, the weather was not that big of deal,” Brinkman said. “For a lot of the girls that came from the South, it was a big shock for them.

“You have to remember it was cold for everybody. It is just whether or not you let it get to you. It is really more of a mental thing,” Brinkman said.

ISU women’s head coach Dick Lee was pleased with his sophomores performance.

“Kelly ran a good race and had an even better season,” Lee said. “She is a little disappointed in her finish today, but she was only about 15 seconds away from being All-American.”

Brinkman also experienced a first during her race on Monday — running without her teammates.

To an average fan, cross country can look like a sport that is mostly individual, with the team only counting in the final score.

However, teammates can be instrumental in helping to set the pace for their top runners and acting like sort of an escort on the way through the pack.

“It’s tough when you make it as an individual because the whole year you have been running with a team,” Lee said. “It really is a team sport, and all of a sudden you’re running by yourself. It can be a little overwhelming if you’re not prepared.”

Not having her teammates with her was probably the only thing that could take away from what was an exciting day and valuable experience for the ISU leader.

“This was the national meet and it is great to be here,” Brinkman said. “It’s incredible weather to be out in and that made the experience even more memorable.

“I would have liked to finish higher, but on any given day you’re going to come out and certain people are going to beat you and you’re going to beat others,” Brinkman said. “Coach Lee told me, ‘It is not the last race you will ever run, so just have a good time and do your best.'”

One Cyclone who did run his last race for the cardinal and gold on Monday was Daniel Kinyua. The five time all-American looked to add to his already impressive resume with yet another top finish but fell just short of his mark.

Kinyua showed the grit and determination that made it possible for him to come back from a serious achilles injury that has plagued him the last two years.

“In general, I thought that I ran well,” Kinyua said. “I was trying to finish in the top 20, but I have had a problem with my achilles. This course is very tough on me with all of the uphill and downhill running.”

When asked about the extreme weather, Kinyua could only shake his head and break a smile through the spit that had frozen all around his mouth.

“It was very cold. I am not used to running in this type of weather,” Kinyua said. “I tried to stay warm and stretch inside the dorms, which worked pretty well. You have to realize that everyone has to run in this weather, not just me.”

Kinyua looked to be well on his way toward an all-American finish as he was in the top 20 with over half the race already done. When the lead pack went through the hills a second time, Kinyua’s lack of training proved to be costly in the end.

“I was running very well but kind of fell off the pace at the 6K mark,” Kinyua said. “I don’t know why it happened but it could have been that I haven’t been able to train as hard as the other guys.”

“Overall, I am very pleased because I wanted to do well. Whenever you are in front of the home crowd you want to do your best,” he said.