ISU's Nelson Gets National Track Swansong

By Rob Gray, Reporter

**RESALES BY OWNER ONLY** Iowa State All-American Meaghan Nelson (right) hugs teammate Betsy Saina after the pair finished fourth and first, respectively, in the 5,000-meter run at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships in March at Boise, Idaho.

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By Grant Burkhardt

AMES, Iowa - Knee issues.

Plantar fasciatis.

The overall grind.

A combination of factors slightly slowed former Xavier prep and senior Iowa State all-American distance runner Meaghan Nelson as the outdoor season, along with her college career, wound down.

“I’ve had a rough couple of weeks here, just in terms of how I’ve been feeling, but definitely had a turnaround these past few days and I’ve been feeling a lot better,” Nelson said.

Good timing, as usual.

Her final NCAA Outdoor Championships have arrived — today through Saturday at Eugene, Ore. — and Nelson’s primed for another potentially high finish in the 10-kilometer run.

She finished fourth last season in Des Moines and joins other Cyclone women’s qualifiers Betsy Saina (10K, 5K), Dani Stack (10K), Ese Okoro (400 hurdles), Ejiro Okoro (800) and Christina Hillman (shot put) in “TrackTown USA.”

“I think everyone that we’ve got going on the women’s side has a chance to score and I think where you have that, that’s a positive thing,” said ISU’s director of track and field Corey Ihmels, who also brought shot putter Jan Jeuschede to Eugene to compete in the men’s championships. “We’re not perfect in every area. We’re going to have to have some luck on our side in certain events, but I think for the most part we’re all in pretty good shape and everybody’s fairly healthy.”

Saina, a two-time NCAA champion (one track, one cross country), battled a hamstring injury in regionals.

“She’s 100 percent now,” Ihmels said. “I expect both (her and Nelson) to run to what they’re capable of doing.”

Nelson’s fourth-place effort last season came in just her third attempt at the 10K.

She enters today’s 9:10 p.m. final — with Saina and Stack alongside — with the 21st-best time (35:04.96) based on the preliminary round.

She’s also planning a run at the professional ranks eventually, though her summer options remain wide open, she said.

“I think everyone has that moment where they’re like, ‘Oh, why am I doing this?’” Nelson said of the fluctuating fortunes virtually inevitable in track and field. “Then it goes back up and immediately it’s all worth it. You’ve just got to roll with the punches and enjoy the process.”

Nelson said she’s working on that latter part.

Ihmels said she’s mastered the rest.

“Meaghan’s pretty down to earth, pretty even-keel,” Ihmels added. “She’s not going to get too excited or too low. She’s just going to be who she is.”

That’s a runner.

An elite one.

An athlete far from her last race, despite the fact her final one in cardinal and gold looms.

“I think I have a tendency to not realize things are ending until way after the fact,” Nelson said. “So I’ve been asked a lot, ‘Oh, it’s your last conference, your last regional, your last national (race in college). … It’s not sad to me yet but I’m sure it will be. Just when I actually realize it’s over. But right now it’s just pushing on the the next thing.”

ISU’S NCAA QUALIFIERS

Men:

Jan Jeuschede, One of four freshman in shot put field

Women:

Christina Hillman, First-time qualifier in the shot put

Meaghan Nelson, runs in the 10K, finished fourth last year

Ejiro Okoro, Reached NCAAs in the 800-meter run

Ese Okoro, Will be in the 400-meter hurdles field

Betsy Saina, Set to shine in both the 10K and 5K

Dani Stack, Cyclones’ third qualifier in the 10K

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