Editor’s note: With the novel coronavirus suspending the sports world, the Ames Tribune will be conducting interviews with former area high school athletes currently at different levels of collegiate athletics.

Iowa State freshman Joven Nelson didn’t get the full experience of running Division I track in his first season of competition for the Cyclones in 2020.

After turning in an outstanding high school career at Nevada that saw him medal at state in seven events, including two Class 3A state championships, Nelson was named the 2018-2019 Gatorade Iowa Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year. Riding the momentum of a fantastic senior year at Nevada that saw him win the 3A boys’ 400 hurdles, Nelson decided to take on the challenge of competing at the Division 1 level in college by walking on at Iowa State.

But his freshman year was cut short. The NCAA cancelled its outdoor track season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nelson decided to discuss his first year running track for the Cyclones and dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic prematurely ending his freshman season with the Ames Tribune.

Questions are in bold and are followed by Nelson’s responses.

What made you decide to walk-on at Iowa State?

Coach Rizzo (ISU assistant men’s track coach Frank Rizzo) approached me and asked if I wanted to run track at ISU during state track and that’s how I started running here.

What events do you compete in?

This last indoor season I competed in the open 300, the open 400, the open 600-yard run (which is different from the open 600 meter), and the 4 X 400 relay. Sadly I never ran anything shorter than a 300, but I just trust in the process and do anything my coaches tell me to do. In high school I never ran more than 400 meters in a meet so when Coach Rizzo told me I was in the 600 yard I was nervous, but I’m always ready for a challenge as I know that in the end it’ll make me a better athlete.

What are your pre-meet rituals?

The only things I did was just try to hydrate and eat well before every run. Normally, if I ran multiple events, one would be on Friday and the other would be on Saturday so I always tried to eat good and drink a lot of fluids before both events.

What has been your biggest challenge so far?

I think my biggest challenge so far has just been keeping up with my academics, not just my athletics. The first semester was definitely easier since we didn’t really travel for meets, but when we started leaving on Wednesdays or Thursdays for meets, I would miss a lot of class. This really challenged me because when I was staying in a hotel in different places, I didn’t want to stay inside and work on school. I knew I had to though, so personally that was something I had to overcome within myself.

What have you enjoyed the most about running at ISU?

I think what I enjoyed most was bonding with the team and learning a lot from my coach. Just all the new experiences I had with traveling and meeting so many amazing people is what I loved doing in high school. Being able to travel to places I’ve never been like Texas and Nebraska and make bonds with my teammates is something I never expected, but am so thankful for. The coaches are one aspect that has made my experience so far one to never forget. They just seem all knowing about what needs to be done and how it can be done. As I said previously, I just trust in the process and give my all because I know in some way everything we do will benefit me.

What has been the most rewarding aspect about running for the Cyclones?

Getting the opportunity to run at the next level. Running track has been one of the biggest challenges, but also the most rewarding. It has impacted my life so much and getting the opportunity to continue what I do best is something I won’t give up on for as long as I can control it.

What coaches and teammates have had the most influence on you at ISU?

I would have to say that my whole group of teammates (the sprinter/hurdler group) and my coach (Rizzo) have really been just amazing during this whole experience. At first I was kinda nervous about joining a new team with no one I knew, but everyone was really open and friendly. The whole experience has been fun, but when we need to put in the work we will put it in. The teammates in my group are Gage Clay, Eric Fogltanz, Jack Garber, Charlie Johnson, Nate Kennedy, Tyson Vander Linden and Mason Weh.

What are your thoughts as a freshman witnessing the senior class have to miss their final outdoor season due to the COVID-19 pandemic?

I think this whole situation is just really unfortunate. I know a lot of the seniors had goals they wanted to achieve their final year and now they won’t be able to see their outdoor season goals realized. I’ve heard rumors of the athletes getting their eligibility back to run if they were to stay another year, but most of the seniors already had jobs lined up for when they graduated so that isn’t going to be a possibility for them. It’s just sad to see all their hard work and dedication to the sport just basically disappear. I’m so thankful to have run for the same team as them and I strive to be at their level.

How has the pandemic impacted you academically?

My major is in engineering, but I’m undecided for the moment as there are so many different majors to choose from just in the engineering field alone. Academically, I think everyone is struggling with this, including the staff. This transition to online classes has been very hard for everyone and the work of the professor, advisers, etc. won’t go unnoticed as they are working very hard to make sure the students are still learning.

Are there any positives you can take away from the COVID-19 situation?

It’s honestly hard to find a positive out of all that has happened just this last month. Everything has just been getting worse and worse and not being able to compete outdoors is really upsetting to me. I can’t even imagine how the seniors are feeling about all this.