UND senior prepares for one last run

Cross country athlete Ross Nelson reflects on time spent running, college career.

Ross Nelson (No. 170) runs at the UND Ron Pynn Invitational on Oct. 19 at Ray Richards Golf Course in Grand Forks. Photo by Keisuke Yoshimura.

For the past four years, Ross Nelson has logged thousands of miles through snow, sunshine, rain and negative temperatures, and now he is preparing to run his last collegiate cross country meet, as both the men’s and women’s teams head to Bozeman, Mont., for the Big Sky Conference Championship this weekend.

“We started with seven guys my freshman year, and now it’s only me and Dwight (Mandimika) left,” Nelson said. “It’s definitely been a long road with a lot of ups and downs, but overall a very good experience for me. I’ve been through a lot and seen guys that couldn’t make it all four years, so I’m not taking anything for granted.”

Nelson has steadily improved his running times this season and recently set a personal record at the Ron Pynn Invitational at Ray Richards Golf Course in Grand Forks — running the 8K in 26:27.7 and finishing fourth for UND runners.

“My senior year so far has started off a little rough, but it has been getting a lot better, and now I’m right where I want to be and going into our last meets,” Nelson said. “I’m feeling very confident about it.”

Nelson has been at it for three months now, and his strategy going into the conference meet this weekend involves being mentally and physically prepared.

“This is it … so leave it all out there,” Nelson said. “Don’t finish the race knowing you had more left — have an attitude of finishing as strong as you possibly can.”

A decision to run

The Apple Valley, Minn., native, who was named “Most Dedicated” by his team his senior year of high school, originally started running not because he thought he’d be good at it, but because he needed a place to channel his large amounts of energy.

“I don’t really know why I started, I just thought it would be a good way to burn extra energy,” Nelson said. “I was always super hyper and bouncing off the walls as a kid. Once high school came around, I started to excel at it and take it more seriously.”

Nelson’s parents didn’t push him to start running in middle school, but they have always been supportive of their son.

“They helped out at our meets back in high school. They didn’t really push me — they said do what you want,” Nelson said. “They were always really supportive. They came to all of my meets and they still do.”

Nelson has been a valuable runner for UND since his arrival in 2010. He has received letters in cross country and track and field every year, and has competed in nearly every cross country meet.

During his sophomore year, Nelson placed 37th at the Great West Conference Cross Country Championship, and also was named to the Athletic Director’s Fall Honor Roll. Nelson has improved with each season, and during his junior year, his first as team captain, he was UND’s top finisher at the NCAA Division I Midwest Regional with a time of 33 minutes, 10.29 seconds.

In that same year, Nelson finished fourth among UND runners at the Big Sky Conference Championships.

“I’m very happy with my overall time at UND,” Nelson said. “I’ve had a couple of rough seasons where I got sick and things didn’t really go my way, but overall I’d say there have been more ups than downs.”

After two years of leading his team as captain, Nelson has a good understanding of what unifies his group.

“In cross country, everyone knows what the other person is going through and how much they are hurting and the obstacles they have to overcome,” Nelson said. “That brings the group closer together.”

On the academic side of his involvement at UND, Nelson is majoring in operations and  supply chain management and plans to graduate in December 2014. After that, his plans are still open.

“I’m going to try to get another internship in purchasing this summer, and if I like that I’m going to try to get a job in that after I graduate,” Nelson said. “I might possibly move somewhere out of the midwest … just check out what else is out there.”

As far as running goes, Nelson’s long career has worn him down, but not enough to make him give it up forever.

“I see running playing a part in my future, but I think after running collegiately, I’ll take a chunk of time off and then come back and jump into it seriously,” he said.

For Nelson, the hours he devotes to running have paid off.

“Knowing you worked really hard at something and then you see how you can excel at is it just really satisfying,” Nelson said. “Putting all the work one does and seeing it pay off is an amazing feeling.”

Marie Monson is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. She can be reached at [email protected].