As someone who doesn’t particularly follow women’s NCAA cross country, or at least not nearly as closely as I do the men, it’s often hard to know who is a legitimate program these days. Sure, it’s easy to remember a few top runners or notice when a team is absolutely loaded one year, but the thing of it is that more often than not these squads and competitors come to prominence one season and spend the next three rebuilding. With all of the talent, transfers, and team changes, it can be very hard to pinpoint a consistent dynasty within such a competitive organization of women.
In my mind though, Iowa State has always stood out among others. Perhaps the term dynasty doesn’t even quite apply to them. Though a glance through their media guide will reveal their overwhelming presence from the top of the NCAA all the way to the Olympic games over many years, Iowa State doesn’t quite fit the profile of what one might think of as a dynasty.
Take their coach, Corey Ihmels, for example. While many programs have scrapped and scraped to find some dream team staff, Iowa State has been succeeding under the direction of one of their very own for the past several years. A sub four miler as well as a member of the Cyclones’ 1994 championship team, Ihmels brings the same pride and passion he had as a student athlete to the coaching staff. What’s not to like about a coach who has endured the full spectrum from athlete, volunteer coach, assistant and eventually the Director of the men’s and women’s track and field programs?
Then there’s Ames, the home of the Cyclones. Calling Ames a small college town doesn’t do it justice as it’s merely the 8th largest city in Iowa. The name Ames is certainly not synonymous with being some mecca of training (and no it doesn’t have some catchy track related nick-name either). The winters are cold, the trails fair, but really aside from their top-notch facilities one would hardly think of the quiet Midwestern town as the home of some of the nation’s finest women harriers.
You might have a hard time telling that to this year’s squad however as they hope to finish out their best season under Ihmels to date. Coming off of their 1st ever Big 12 conference title (to be fair, they did have to compete against CU until recently) as well as a dominant performance at the Midwest regional, Iowa State will look to further their already solid standing among the premier women’s programs in the country. With returning All-Americans Dani Stack (14th) and Betsy Saina (3rd in Outdoor 10k) as well as a healthy Meaghan Nelson, look for the cyclones to better their 10th place ranking and quite possibly exceed last year’s stellar 8th place finish.
Again, when speaking of 10th and 8th place finishes, the term dynasty may seem a bit bold, especially when compared to the team titles scattered about the last four decades. However, don’t be afraid to underestimate how long it will take this sleeping giant to really start turning some heads. Further, know that once they do this eager little program won’t be shy about keeping their foot in the door.
Wow, a whole article about Iowa State and not even one mention of Lisa Koll…shoot!