LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Betsy Saina became the third individual national collegiate cross country champion in Iowa State history, winning the NCAA Cross Country Championships on the E.P. “Tom” Sawyer State Park course Saturday. Saina, who held off a couple of late challengers, covered the 6,000-meter course in 19:27.10, besting a field of 253 runners. Cyclone Meaghan Nelson placed 16th to earn All-America honors. Iowa State finished 11th as a team with 350 points. Oregon won the team title with 114 points.
Saina, a senior, joins former Iowa State champions Peg Neppel (1975) and Dorthe Rasmussen (1981),who won AIAW individual cross country crowns as Cyclones. Saina, now a six-time All-American and two-time NCAA champion, ran right with the leaders from the start.
“I told myself that I was going to go for it from the start,” Saina said. “I knew it was going to be tough and I was ready for a challenge at the end. I was patient and my body was feeling good so I got to the end and started sprinting. I knew I had to go eventually and I trusted myself.”
Saina acknowledged awareness during the race that this was the cross country race of her Iowa State career.
“I’m so excited to win,” Saina said. “It was an amazing feeling that I can’t really put into words. I can’t believe it.”
The year ends one of Iowa State’s best ever women’s cross country seasons. The Cyclones repeated as Big 12 Conference champions and Midwest Regional team titlists. Saina was the Big 12 and Midwest Regional individual winner. Nelson’s 16th-place finish earned her cross country All-America honors for the second straight season.
Iowa State head coach Corey Ihmels lauded the accomplishments of his latest national champion.
“Anytime you win an NCAA title in cross country, it’s a tremendous accomplishment,” Ihmels said. “You’re taking all the best distance runners in collegiate athletics and putting them in one race and she came out on top. She beat some great athletes. It’s a testament to her hard work. Her life revolves around being as good as she can be and it showed today. She’s a great athlete but she’s just a great of a person. Betsy’s humble and a great leader. She goes to work every day and does all the little things. That is what a champion does.”
IOWA STATE NCAA RESULTS
TEAM SCORING (31 Teams total)
1. Oregon 114; 2. Providence 183; 3. Stanford 198; 4. Florida State 202; 5. Michigan 247; 6. Arizona State 263; 7. Duke 300; 8. Connecticut 304; 9. Washington 334; 10. New Mexico 341; 11. IOWA STATE 350
1. Betsy Saina, IOWA STATE, 19:27.9; 16. Meaghan Nelson, IOWA STATE, 20:01.7; 108. Samantha Bluske, IOWA STATE, 20:51.2; 139. Katy Moen, IOWA STATE, 21:02.9; 192. Crystal Nelson, IOWA STATE, 21:28.2; 193. Taylor Peterson, 21:29.0; 222. Colleen Riley, IOWA STATE, 21:44.7