The right day didn’t arrive for the Iowa State women’s cross-country team.
Saturday was supposed to be the day the Cyclones finally put last season’s performance at nationals behind them. The day they made their return to national relevance. It was supposed to be a day of redemption they had spent the previous 363 days anxiously awaiting after finishing 24th at the 2015 NCAA Championship meet.
But after a disappointing 29th-place finish, they’ll have to wait another year to put two disappointing endings to rest.
“I was disappointed, and I told [the runners] so, and I’d like to think that they were too,” Iowa State coach Andrea Grove-McDonough said. “I know they were. How can you not be? That was disappointing given the season we had put together and quite frankly given the talent we had on our roster. It was unfortunately a really bad performance. I don’t know how else to say it.”
The team was built for an upset. It was beginning to regain some of the confidence it had lost a season ago after winning the Big 12 Championship at the end of October.
The season-long goal of finishing inside the top 10 never seemed more likely.
“I think on the right day for all of us, just knowing the potential of every one of my teammates in that top seven, top eight, if everyone could have a great day, I think we can surprise some people and have a little bit of an upset at nationals,” redshirt junior Bethanie Brown said before the meet.
The right day will have to wait at least another season.
Grove-McDonough didn’t try to sugarcoat her team’s performance Saturday, but she also isn’t hanging her head.
She knows the team is capable of more, and it will have a chance to prove that next fall, when it will likely return six of its top seven runners.
The team will take time to reflect on what happened, and then it will be time to move on.
“I think it’s appropriate that each individual reflects on what went wrong, or if there is anything that went right, what that was, and separate that,” Grove-McDonough said. “I think it’s time for some hard reflection and maybe some tough love.
“I woke up today and I thought, I just texted the team this, there are 364 days until we get a chance at redemption. All we can do now is pick up the pieces and move on. We have a very talented roster, we have some very tough women.”
The next step will be moving on to the indoor and outdoor track and field seasons, which will begin on Jan. 14 and March 17, respectively.
“We have to look forward to that and continue to have high expectations for what we’re capable of doing in the Big 12 and nationally,” Grove-McDonough said. “And that’s what we’re going to do.
"We have to move forward and say, now we have two seasons of track and field in which we can continue to gain experience under pressure and continue to improve, so that when we head into the summer for next year’s cross-country season, we are hopefully going into it with some momentum.”