ISU women’s cross-country ranked No. 1 in preseason poll


Kyle Heim/Iowa State Daily

Senior Crystal Nelson chases down her competition in pursuit of a seventh-place performance at the NCAA Championships on Nov. 22, 2014 in Terre Haute, Ind. Iowa State placed second at the event. 

Kyle Heim

The ISU women’s cross-country team won’t have an opportunity to outperform its preseason ranking in 2015. 

After placing runner-up at last year’s NCAA Cross-Country Championship, the Cyclones now sit atop the preseason U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association poll, which was released Tuesday afternoon. 

This is the first No. 1 ranking for the Cyclones in program history. 

The team will return three of its top four finishers from last season’s NCAA Cross-Country Championship, including its top runner, Crystal Nelson. 

Nelson had a knee injury last year that prevented her from competing in the indoor and outdoor seasons. She is still trying to get back up to speed for this year’s cross-country season. 

“Really, right now, we have so many moving parts,” ISU coach Andrea Grove-McDonough said. “The biggest of those is Crystal Nelson. What we really need to do is kind of see how she evolves from week to week and how her fitness comes along. We have a terrific team if she can get back to that kind of fitness. But I’m also trying to encourage her not to press and kind of let things evolve and let the fitness kind of come to her.”

If Nelson doesn’t return to the level her coach hopes, Nelson will likely redshirt this cross-country season. 

A redshirt for Nelson would potentially allow Grove-McDonough to return her top-five runners next season. 

“It’s a little bit of a chess game,” Grove-McDonough said. “If we don’t get Crystal all the way back, I reserve her remaining year of eligibility. I bring back this entire team next year. All five of them. That’s an impressive group. That’s a group in every third year, I’d like to think every other year, is going to have a real shot at winning a national title.”

Even with Nelson, Grove-McDonough still worries New Mexico, the No. 2 ranked team in the preseason poll, will be too tough to defeat. 

“New Mexico may be the best team I’ve ever seen in my 10 years kind of paying attention,” Grove-McDonough said. “They’re phenomenal. They have three women listed as potential top 10 individuals at NCAAs [by Track and Field News], and a fourth listed as an honorable mention. There’s not much I can do to beat that, unless they beat themselves.”  

Grove-McDonough said there are 10 teams that have the potential to finish in the top five this year.  

“This year’s a whole new game for the women,” Grove-McDonough said. “It’s exciting, it’s interesting. We have a lot of work to do at Iowa State to be in position again to make another run at a trophy. That’s always our goal.”