NCAA D-II Women's National Championship top 10
Alicia Nelson Adams State 20:03
Susan Tanui Alaska Anchorage 20:12
Katie Spratford Shippensburg 20:22
Jessica Janeke Grand Valley St. 20:23
Sophie McNeely Western State 20:25
Allyson Winchester Grand Valley St. 20:29
Melissa Agnew U-Mary 20:29
Runa Falch Augustana 20:39
Julie Pack Western State 20:47
Kristin Brondbo Augustana 20:53
Hard work has paid big dividends for Alicia Nelson.
The senior at Adams State University and 2009 Moffat County High School graduate finished her cross country career in style last weekend at the 2012 NCAA Division II National Championships.
At the Nov. 17 race on the campus of Missouri Southern State University in Joplin, Mo., Nelson finished the six-kilometer race in 20:03.3, taking first place and setting a D-II meet record in the process.
The individual national championship was a fitting end to a spectacular senior season. Nelson had previously won the individual titles at the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference meet as well as the South Central Regionals, but this one took the cake after a runner-up finish last year.
“It was awesome to win individually,” Nelson said. “It was kind of like, I had won cross country my senior year in high school so it was cool to kind of repeat it. As captain this year, it was a cool experience for me to show (her teammates) what they can be capable of.”
Nelson’s victory came in a narrow defeat for the Grizzlies in the team scoring. They took third place with 109 points, behind Grand Valley State (101) and Augustana College (104). She was still pleased with her accomplishment, though.
“We’ve been working so hard as a team all year, trying to win back the title,” she said. “I was just hoping to run as hard as I could. I knew I was capable of being one of the top girls, so running to my potential was definitely a goal and going out on a good note.”
It ended up being a great note. Nelson did not start well, however, spending much of the first half of the race working her way to the front of the pack. Once she got there, she knew what to do.
“I probably got out in like the top 20-30, so the first part I was just trying to get up to the leaders,” she said. “There was a couple girls still ahead of me, and we ran in a pack for a bit. That girl (Susan Tanui of Alaska-Anchorage) was just staying the same distance in front of me, so it was one of those things where reeling her in was my job.”
The result was one her parents were proud of, as well.
“She’s just worked so hard and really been determined and self-motivated,” mother Annie Nelson said. “She’s worked for it and she deserves it.”
Nelson took the week off after her win and even got to come home for Thanksgiving. But it will be back to the grind for her third year of eligibility in track as a red shirt senior.
Nelson has already made her mark on the track at ASU, setting a record time in the 3,000-meter steeplechase in 2010. But her cross-country win will fill her with more confidence, she said.
“You realize what you’re capable of,” Nelson said. “You still have to work really hard, but you took a step forward in your racing. Last year I had kind of a hard time with indoor track and you always want to better your mark.”
Ever-humble in victory, though, Nelson is quick to get talking about her team and coaches whenever she can.
“I wouldn’t have gotten what I’ve gotten done without them, and I’m really proud of how, as a team, our progression has been really cool this year,” she said.
Nate Waggenspack can be reache at 875-1795 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Craig Daily Press sports coverage on Twitter at @CDP_Sports.