Alicia Nelson isn’t a stranger to success.
Nelson, a 2009 Moffat County High School graduate, won the 4A state cross-country title in her senior season at MCHS.
Then, in the spring, she broke the Bulldogs’ mile record during track season.
During her freshman year at Adams State College, Nelson broke the NCAA Division II 3,000-meter steeplechase record and won a national title.
So, on Nov. 19, when Nelson, now a junior at Adams State, competed in the Division II women’s national cross-country meet in Spokane, Wash., she knew her chances of a top five finish were high.
“I knew for sure I was capable of finishing in the top five,” Nelson said. “I knew there would be some good girls I would be capable of beating, and I did that. My goal was a top three finish.”
Nelson finished the 6,000-meter race in 21 minutes and 7.4 seconds to take second place.
The Adams State women’s cross-country team finished fourth overall, led by Nelson.
“I think, as a team, we expected a lot more going into the meet,” Nelson said. “Our top three runners ran well, but we hit a rough patch and we are a young team.
“We weren’t satisfied with our finish, but it was good experience for the team.”
As for her personal finish, Nelson said she felt she ran a great race and being able to compete in a national championship meet was amazing.
“It is an awesome feeling and you can’t really understand it unless you are there to experience it,” she said. “The races are really intense and it is really motivational and inspiring to see performances there.
“It is just an emotional and satisfying experience.”
The 2011 season, Nelson said, was about bouncing back from a foot injury she suffered in her sophomore year.
The injury forced Nelson to miss a few meets and while she still competed in the national championship meet in 2010, she said she wasn’t up to par.
“It was very emotional because, not being injured before, I wasn’t able to practice with my team and I just had to sit back and be patient,” Nelson said of her injury. “It was a long process with workouts to get back and I had to push mentally and physically.
“When you are on top, everything is peachy keen, but you learn a lot about how much you really want something when you are injured.”
Nelson finished this season with three consecutive second-place finishes.
In the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference championships Oct. 22, Nelson took second behind Western State College’s Lauren Kleppin.
Two weeks later, Nelson again came in behind Kleppin at the NCAA Division II Central Region championships.
At the national championship meet, Nelson was able to get ahead of Kleppin, who finished third, but trailed Shippensburg’s Neely Spence, who won in a time of 20:53.8.
Nelson will be the top returning finisher next season, as Spence is a senior.
Adams State will have the top two returning finishers, as sophomore Kelly Lamb took fifth place behind two seniors.
In her three seasons, Nelson said she has continually improved and become a better runner.
“My freshman year, I ran well, but I was a newbie on the team,” she said. “I overcame injury last year and have gained a lot of confidence. I am moving in the right direction and I have definitely improved from where I started.”
Nelson said she will continue with indoor and outdoor track before summer workouts, but being a national champion next year is her goal.
“Like every year, I am going to do the training my coach gives me and set goals and focus on those,” she said. “From a fitness level, running year round will help me and I think physically I am where I am supposed to be and I hope to only get better from here.”
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