An inflamed tendon in her left ankle forced Bethanie Brown to the sidelines for much of Iowa State’s cross country season. But the Waterville Senior High School alum still has a chance to be a part of what could be a historic season for the Cyclones.

Coach Andrea Grove-McDonough gave Brown, a sophomore, the green light to represent the Cyclones at the NCAA Cross Country National Championships this Saturday in Terre Haute, Ind. It’s quite the vote of confidence for the 2013 All-American, who had to take three weeks off from running to let the ankle heal and hasn’t raced since late September.

“I’m looking forward to Nationals,” Brown said. “I’m really excited and really happy to be there. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

The ankle flared up during a training run not long after Brown finished 15th at the Roy Griak Invitational on Sept. 27, which turned out to be her only race of the regular season. The cause of the injury remains a mystery, said Brown, who had never experienced severe ankle problems in the past.

“Honestly, it was just really weird,” she said. “I didn’t notice anything before. It just started bothering me.”

Brown had an MRI that showed inflammation in the tendon and around the joint. Only rest would make the ankle better, so Brown didn’t run for three weeks. She cross-trained to try to maintain some fitness. When she resumed running a little over two weeks ago with an outside hope of competing at the Big 12 championships, the pain was gone but her fitness level wasn’t close to where it needed to be.

Brown made significant strides last week in hopes of competing in the NCAA Midwest Regionals last Friday, but didn’t improve enough to travel with the team to Peoria, Ill.

Pessimistic about getting a chance to compete in Nationals, Brown discussed scrapping the season with Grove-McDonough to keep her year of eligibility.

“She kind of had to convince me (that Nationals were still in the picture),” Brown said. “I was worried in terms of my fitness, and basically we were thinking I will run or I would get a medical redshirt. We did a tempo run and another workout the next day and they went pretty well. So, I’m going to give my best effort and see what I can do to help the team.”

“That’s what I wanted ultimately, was to help out my team,” she added.

Being out of action forced Brown, who was one of the top freshmen in the country last year, to reevaluate her goals for this season. “Making All-American again was definitely one of my goals going into the season, and it would be awesome if that happened this week,” said Brown, who finished fifth, third and 37th respectively in last year’s Big 12 Championships, Midwest Regional and NCAA Championship. “But looking at it right now, I know I’m fit but I haven’t had that racing experience that you need at this point in the season. Going into this meet, I’m not really putting that pressure on myself to be All-American. I have to be focused on the team and scoring for the team.”

Even without Brown, the Cyclones have dominated their postseason meets, winning their fourth straight conference title and their fifth consecutive Midwest regional. The latter victory came with another top runner, Margaret Connelly, also sidelined.

Iowa State finished 13th nationally last year and is currently ranked fifth in the nation.

“We’re really excited. We think we’ve got something really special this year,” Brown said.

Brown said she expects to be at full strength for indoor track season and also plans to continue competing in outdoor track in the spring. She also thinks her body may be healthier for the winter and spring sports because of her forced time off.

“It’s been very frustrating to not be able to run and it’s been a roller-coaster of emotions,” she said. “But ultimately, I look back on the last few weeks and I think it’s going to be good for the long term.”

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33

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