Iowa State entered the 2014 NCAA Cross Country Championship as one of two schools with two runners (Crystal Nelson and Katy Moen) ranked among the top dozen contenders as individuals.
The Cyclones were well positioned to reach the podium (top four) for the first year in years.
Then, Saturday morning this text came across my phone from an observer at the meet: “Katy pulled a calf muscle Tuesday and has not been able to run all week. She is going to try and start the race but it’s doubtful she can finish.”
Ouch. Podium dreams crashed.
“She (Moen) came up with an injury early in the week, so it (race preparations) was really unnerving,” Coach Andrea Grove-McDonough said. “She’s had an almost dream season and to have it come down to the wire – it terms of even being able to toe the (starting) line or get through the race – is so impressive.”
Moen did start and finish the race (she placed eighth), one spot behind her teammate and training partner (Nelson). Each was an All-American.
“I knew she (Moen) was right there because I heard people cheering,” Nelson said. “It made me push even harder.”
Cross country racing, at this level, is really a team event. All five Cyclones scorers had terrific performances. Bethanie Brown (who had not competed for 10 weeks because of injury), Perez Rotich and Margaret Connelly finished 53rd, 65th and 66th respectively.
“I’m so excited for them to get on the podium,” Grove-McDonough said. “We’ve been dreaming about this since last year.”
Moen’s season almost turned into a nightmare at nationals, but she and her teammates gutted it out and made sure it would indeed be a dream worth remembering for years.