Brinkman races her way into NCAA cross country

Zac Reicks

ISU women’s cross country runner Kelly Brinkman qualified for the NCAA Championships last Saturday, finishing fourth out of 164 runners at the NCAA Division 1 Midwest Regional at Waterloo.

Brinkman covered the 6,000-meter course in 20:55 to earn the privilege of running on her home course when the NCAA’s are held in Ames next Monday.

“I was so elated, I have been on cloud nine all week,” Brinkman said. “I accomplished my goal of making it to the championships, and that’s something no one can take away from me.”

While Brinkman’s teammates will not be joining her after the Cyclones’ disappointing sixth place finish at Waterloo, the excitement of qualifying for the most important meet of the season will help to ease that pain.

“It would have been so nice if my teammates could be there with me,” Brinkman said. “This race will be just like any other, except they won’t be there to help me out.”

One advantage that Brinkman will have is that she will run on her home course. For those people who don’t think that this is a big advantage, just think back to last march when the ISU men’s basketball team had to play Michigan State in Detroit, right down the road from the MSU campus.

“The advantage for me will not come in my time, because I won’t run much faster on this course than I usually do,” Brinkman said. “However, it will help me out in regards to sleeping in my own bed, not having to travel, and just the fact that I know the course so well.”

Brinkman, who is only a sophomore, knows that a race like this can play games with her head and the best thing she can do is not worry about it too much.

“I am trying to keep my thoughts off the race, and not get overanxious,” Brinkman said. “I just want to go in there and run like it is any other race.”

No matter Brinkman tells herself though, this is not just another race. The top teams from all over the country will travel to Ames and take their shot at bringing home the glory of an NCAA title.

Favorites for the women’s meet include Brigham Young, Big 12 foes Colorado and Kansas State, Stanford and Wisconsin. 1999 team champion Brigham Young returns with top runner Sharolyn Shields-Thayer leading the way for the Cougars. Wisconsin returns with 1999 individual champion Erica Palmer and a very strong team as well.

Brinkman knows that her chances are just as good as anybody else’s, and will not be intimidated by the top runners in the nation.

“I am hoping for a top 40 finish, and to run the best race that I can,” Brinkman said. “I know it’s a lofty goal, but why not? I have nothing to lose.”

The NCAA Championships will be Monday, Nov. 20, at the ISU Cross Country Course. The women’s race begins at 11 a.m., while the men’s race will be run at 12:15.