NCAA track, cross-country champion Tim Nelson begins new challenges in Army
January 31, 2014
FORT BENNING, Ga., (Jan. 29, 2014) -- For 2nd Lt. Tim Nelson, a student in the Armor Basic Officer Leadership Course, Jan. 18 was a big day in a storied career as a cross-country runner for the University of Wisconsin-Stout, but maybe not as big as the career he is embarking on now.
Nelson, a four-time Division III track and cross-county national champion, received the 2014 NCAA Today's Top 10 Award Jan. 18 during the NCAA convention in San Diego.
The award is given each year by the NCAA to honor 10 outstanding senior student-athletes of the preceding calendar year. The award is based on athletics ability and achievement, academic achievement, character, leadership and activities. The award includes all NCAA divisions and includes both male and female athletes.
He is only the fifth student in the history of the Wisconsin Athletic Association to win the award and the only Division III student athlete to win the award this year.
Nelson said receiving the award was a journey from where he first began his athletic career at Augusta High School in Augusta, Wis.
"I was 17 when I first started running, so kind of late," he said. "My mother was a runner and I excelled right off the bat. I said to myself 'why haven't I been doing this all along.'
"I played football in high school until I was a senior. I played all positions, because I played them all equally bad," he said jokingly.
But, whatever Nelson accomplished in high school, he said he was a team of one as the only runner on the team and attributed it to a good coaching staff and his personal work ethic.
"One of the reasons I didn't run cross-country until I was a senior was because my high school didn't have a team, so as a senior I was the only one on the team … I wasn't really on the team until college," he said. "I ran probably in the 17s. But, I didn't accept anything less than my best, which I think transfers over to the Army very well. I expected a lot of myself and I expected to improve everything I could realistically. I caught up to my peers rather quickly because I would do whatever it took, which I think my peers probably weren't."
Nelson said he really wasn't considered "super good" when he was in high school; therefore he wasn't sought after by Division I schools but was recruited by Division III schools where he landed at the University of Wisconsin-Stout.
"It's only an hour or so from home," he said. "I remember when I was in high school saying I would never go to Stout, but I ended up falling in love with it when I toured it."
Nelson said he never really trained in high school, but when he got to Stout he was thrown into training and reaped the benefits quickly.
"My body really accepted the training," he said. "I excelled and got better really quick. My learning curve was very steep. In my freshmen year, I ran very well … a lot faster than I had ever run.
"Then as a sophomore, I ran poorly and almost quit. It was some dark times in my athletic career. It was a life experience that you just have to go through in order to appreciate the good times. (Going through) It made me a better runner, but more so it made me a better teammate, a much better person and a much better leader. After that, I became a team captain for the next three years. It made me reevaluate how I looked at the sport and instead of caring only about how I did, I started to care about the whole team and for the benefit of the whole team."
Then, Nelson said the coaching staff and team captain were instrumental in helping him turn things around.
Editor's note: This is the first in a two-part series on NCAA track and cross-country champion 2nd Lt. Tim Nelson