Iowa State crosses into history after 2014 season

Kyle Heim

Consistency at the top and improvement from the four and five runners highlight the 2014 ISU women’s cross country season.

The team’s season began on Aug. 29, when it swept the top four spots at the Drake Bulldog Classic without its top runners and previewed one of the most successful seasons in ISU women’s cross country history.

Iowa State featured its best runners for the first time at the Roy Griak Invitational on Sept. 27. A pair of top-10 performances from junior Crystal Nelson and redshirt senior Katy Moen led Iowa State to a second-place finish. The team learned they would need performances like those in order to make a run for the NCAA title.

Nelson and Moen didn’t disappoint in their encore at the Wisconsin Adidas Invitational on Oct. 17. The runners followed their top-10 finishes from the Griak Invitational with top-five finishes at Wisconsin, including a first-place performance by Nelson. Moen credited the team’s success with the training program ISU coach Andrea Grove-McDonough provided to them.

“I think that we just have a really good training set down by coach McDonough. She has a plan and if we can buy into the plan, it’ll work out,” Moen said.

Just three invitationals into the season, the Cyclones began their quest for a fourth-consecutive Big 12 Championship.

After placing 79th and 103rd, respectively, at the Wisconsin Invitational, sophomore Perez Rotich and redshirt freshman Erin Hooker followed with top-15 performances at the conference championship meet. Hooker placed ninth and Rotich placed 13th, finishing as the teams fourth and fifth runners, respectively.

Next on the schedule for the Cyclones was the NCAA Midwest Regional. The team competed without graduate student Margaret Connelly, who finished fourth overall at the Big 12 Championships and sophomore Bethanie Brown, who last competed at the Griak Invitational, where she finished 16th overall. Iowa State was still able to claim its fifth-straight regional title, and Moen said that moment stood out to her the most leading up to the NCAA Championships.

“Sitting Margaret out and Bethanie out, and seeing that we could still dominate the Midwest Region without our three and four runners was pretty neat,” Moen said.

Leading up to championship season, coach Grove-McDonough said the team would ultimately be judged on their performance at the NCAA Championships.

“I don’t need any single one of the girls to have a great day,” Grove-McDonough said before the race. “As long as we even have a solid day, we’re going to do very, very well.”

The NCAA Championships marked the final time Moen and Nelson competed together for the ISU women’s cross country, and as they had done all year, the pair formed a pack, stuck together and both finished inside the top-10.

“It was comforting knowing Katy was right there with me. It definitely helped relax both of us,” Nelson said after the race.

Iowa State finished runner-up to Michigan State at the NCAA Championships on Nov. 22. The second-place performance tied their highest finish in program history.

The race also marked the first time that Iowa State has posted two runners inside the top-10 at an NCAA Championship meet.

“I think our team this year has had a really great atmosphere, and we had a lot of fun this season,” Moen said. “We didn’t really feel the pressure as much as we felt pressure last year and the years before for sure. I think it was the most outgoing, fun, light-hearted, successful season for us.”