Petersen's Success No Surprise For Ihmels
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"Taylor stepped up and made the difference for us in the team title," Ihmels said. "I'm excited for where she is right now."
Heading into the conference championship, Petersen had yet to finish in Iowa State's top-seven this season. But last Saturday, on the 6,000-meter course at the Pebble Creek Country Club in College Station, Texas, the Reinbeck, Iowa native had the performance of her collegiate career. She crossed the finish line 27th overall and fifth for the Cyclones with a time of 20:46.00.
"I had a gut feeling she was going to run well and be our sixth or seventh finisher," Ihmels said. "But to see her finish fifth is great."
Including Petersen, three of the Cyclones' top-five finishers at the Big 12 Championships were native Iowans. Meaghan Nelson, a Cedar Rapids native, was the race's runner-up. Morgan Casey, a native of Gooselake, finished 20th.
As the Cyclones' fifth finisher, Petersen was the last runner to earn points towards the team score, becoming one of the keys to separating Iowa State’s team score from those of Texas and Oklahoma State.
"To be able to score for my team and know I made a difference between us winning the Big 12 title or losing by a few points made this experience the best I have had in my collegiate running career," Petersen said. "To be able to share this title with my team means a lot to me. Someday it will be really cool to look back and tell my family and friends I played a part in the 2011 Big 12 victory."
Petersen is a junior majoring in animal science. She was rewarded for her academic efforts earlier in the cross country season when she was named first-team Academic All-Big 12 for the first time.
"She’s a great student, comes to practice every day and always does what we ask of her," Ihmels said. "Coming from a small town and being a walk-on athlete, it's great to see her continue to get better and to see her have some success."
The Cyclones are currently preparing for the Midwest Regional Championship, Nov. 12 in DeKalb, Ill, where the Iowa State women will look to defend their 2010 regional title. Petersen hopes to be able to contribute again to the team's anticipated success.
"I have crushed my personal goal to improve my personal record," Petersen said. "But I am always looking to run faster in every race. Our team has accomplished the goal of winning the Big 12 Championships and now we need to keep the regional and national meets in our sights. We have a really good group of girls that could all be our number five runner, but I would love to run good races in the next few weeks and try to continue to score for my team."
She also hopes to use her accomplishments from the Big 12 Championships as a motivator for the rest of the cross country season.
"I want to use the experiences from this season to boost my confidence level in racing," Petersen said.