“I didn’t even know what (steeplechase) was. I hadn’t really seen it before. Coach Trapp had done it, so that was basically my only exposure.”
Alicia Nelson, 2009 Moffat County High School graduate, about learning to run the 3,000-meter steeplechase for Adams State University
Since Alicia Nelson graduated from Moffat County High School, she’s had her fair share of success.
She won a Division II National championship in 2010 in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, a trip to the U.S. Seniors and a second place finish at the 2011 cross country national championship.
For Nelson, an incoming senior at Adams State University and member of the MCHS class of 2009, the years to come could be even bigger.
During the 2010 season Nelson ran a time good enough to qualify for the U.S. Seniors, a track meet that qualifies runners from the United States for the annual World Championships. Nelson was the youngest runner in the field, nine days older than the cut-off age between seniors and juniors, but still made the finals and placed 11th.
Her sudden success came as a bit of a surprise, since Nelson had never run the event before going to college.
“I didn’t even know what (steeplechase) was,” Nelson said. “I hadn’t really seen it before. Coach (Todd) Trapp had done it, so that was basically my only exposure.”
Adams State track and cross-country head coach Damon Martin said in the course of drills getting prepared for her first track season, he noticed Nelson excelled at certain drills that made him think she might be good in steeplechase.
“When I saw her doing well with those (drills), I talked to her about trying steeplechase,” Martin said. “Boy, she took to it right away. In her first race, she qualified for nationals.”
Later that season Nelson would be crossing the finish line first at the Division II National Championships.
In her second year of eligibility, Nelson dealt with plantar fasciitis, an inflammation of tissue on the bottom of the foot that causes pain and makes walking and running more difficult. After running through it during the cross country season, Nelson red-shirted for her sophomore year of track.
That experience was difficult, but showed Nelson how much she enjoyed running.
“Coming back from that year, I wanted to get good training. I had a lot more drive cause I knew what it felt like to not be able to run, that was awful,” she said. “To be back with my team gave me some motivation.”
Nelson had a successful junior campaign, finishing second at the Division II cross-country national championships. During the track season, she set a personal best in the steeplechase at 10 minutes, 10 seconds, but was hoping to be faster.
“Over the course of the season we had planned to race at big meets and I wanted to break 10 minutes, and I feel like I was physically capable of that but didn’t quite get there,” she said.
Her best time from the season was still good enough to provisionally qualify for the U.S. Olympic Trials. Nelson and Martin decided it was best to forgo running at the trials to try and heal an ankle sprain she had suffered a few weeks before.
“It’s a great honor to qualify, but at the same time its one of those things that when you go you want to be 100 percent and give your best,” Martin said. “The goals are much bigger for her. I believe she has the ability to become one of top five women in the country in the steeplechase.”
Nelson echoed that sentiment, saying that while she wasn’t doing the trials this year she plans on being a contender at national professional events in the future.
“It’s still a long ways down the road, but getting back (to U.S. Seniors and Olympic Trials), its definitely a goal of mine,” she said.
Nelson said she remembers leaving high school and not having any impression where she would be today.
“I can remember talking to (Jennifer) Pressgrove, because she ran in college, and saying, ‘Running’s not going to be my life,’” Nelson said. “But that’s sort of the way it’s become. I don’t regret any of it though. I love it.”
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