Even when her chances were dim, Alicia Nelson refused to give up.
Running the 3,000-meter steeplechase Saturday in Charlotte, N.C., during the NCAA Division II championships, Nelson, a 2009 Moffat County High School graduate, was in fourth place and in trouble.
With three and a half laps left, the Adams State College freshman was keeping pace with the reigning champion and two other athletes expected to compete for the crown.
Until a runner’s worst nightmare happened — she fell.
But, not getting back up never crossed her mind.
“I don’t think that I ever thought I was out of it,” she said. “I knew I was going to have to work.
“I couldn’t just give up.”
Nelson said she put her faith in her training and hard work, and kept running.
She ran until she passed Western State’s Hillary Davis. She ran until both Southern Indiana’s Mary Ballinger and Shippensburg’s Mary Dell were behind her.
Nelson ran the steeplechase in 10 minutes and 11.48 seconds, which is the fastest any runner has run the 3,000-meter steeplechase at a championship meet.
She won the national title.
The result wasn’t bad for someone who had to be persuaded into trying the event last winter.
The steeplechase is a 3,000-meter race with 35 jumps, including seven water jumps.
“When I started, I didn’t know what to expect,” Nelson said. “It was something new. I gave it a try and stuck with it.
“It’s a change of pace — a different kind of pain.”
Nelson, who also ran for the Adams State cross country team in the fall, said setting a new record was simply a reflection of her dedication.
“It goes to show that all the work you put in all year pays off,” she said.
When she started Saturday, she said she could see herself winning the race, but didn’t quite see herself setting a new mark.
“The race wasn’t supposed to be that fast,” she said.
Shippensburg’s Dell also beat the old time of 10:20:42, which was set in 2008 by Abilene Christian’s Winrose Karunde.
“I wasn’t thinking about the record,” Nelson said. “But, it did give me a little more incentive to step up.
“It wasn’t in the game plan.”
She said she was simply going to run her own race and hope for the best against a tough field.
“I knew there was a defending champion (Ballinger) and two girls who were capable (of winning),” she said. “I just wanted to do well. I had nothing to lose, really, but I could still go for it.”
Overall, the Adams State Grizzlies girls team finished eighth, while the boys team finished fourth.
Nelson was talked into trying the steeplechase last year after finishing her track and field season.
“There are two girls on the team who said, ‘You would be good at this,’” she said. “I thought ‘Why not give it a try?’ If I didn’t like it, I could always go back to doing what I liked.
“Now, I love it.”
Nelson plans to defend her title next year.
“You want to hold on to what you’ve got,” she said. “If it doesn’t work out, you have to go back and keep trying to get better.”
Nelson won’t have much time off this summer.
She is expecting to compete in next month’s USAT&F Championships in Des Moines, Iowa.
“I want to see how I can do,” she said. “Hopefully, I’ll get a little faster there.”