By Jess Schwager
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
With constant emphasis on personal bests and cutting times, cross country is often perceived as an individual sport. But for Nebraska senior Ari Goldstein, her teammates have played a crucial role in helping her push through rough times.
Goldstein has certainly celebrated individual success. She began her Nebraska career on top of the world, earning a 17th place finish at the 2005 Big 12 Championships. She then finished 10th at the NCAA Midwest Region, just one spot short of an NCAA Championship bid.
Goldstein again had a stellar sophomore campaign, winning consecutive races at the Creighton/UNO Classic and the Woody Greeno/Nebraska Invite. Goldstein earned all-conference honors by finishing 13th at the 2006 Big 12 Championships, before helping NU to a fourth-place team finish at the NCAA Midwest Regional.
She finished off her junior year with a 14th-place finish at the 2007 Big 12 Conference meet and a 27th-place finish at the NCAA Midwest Regional.
Her run of triumphs ended in 2008 as Goldstein came down with mononucleosis before the start of her senior season.
"Mono was not very fun," Goldstein said. "You just get worn out. You don't realize how bad you feel until you begin to feel better, so you don't know that you're tired. You just get used to feeling kind of bad. Once you feel better, then you realize, 'Oh, man, I really was kind of sick.' You just feel crummy all of the time."
Despite the exhaustion caused by her illness, Goldstein tried to keep training with her teammates. Eventually, though, she was forced sit out the 2008 cross country as a redshirt.
"I tried to keep training probably more than I should have and I subsequently just got more worn down," Goldstein said. "Finally, I just took complete time off and started to feel better. There was probably six weeks when I did minimal training. I would maybe just run a couple of miles every other day."
Goldstein's redshirt season gave her time to heal and focus on the 2009 indoor and outdoor track and field seasons. With a little push from her teammates, Goldstein competed in five indoor meets and one outdoor meet, where she even set a personal best in the 10,000 meters at the Stanford Invitational with a time of 36:21.53.
"I just really thought I could get back at it," Goldstein said. "It was helpful to have my team right there every day to go out and run. That made getting in shape much easier. I didn't go out and say 'Oh, I have to beat my 10,000-meter time by two minutes.' It was just a result of hard training with my team every day and getting back to normal."
Immediately following her personal best performance at the Stanford Invitational, an injury caused more hardship. Goldstein's season ended when she tore a peritoneal tendon in her left foot.
"I got down pretty quickly after I realized my foot wasn't going to get better in time to finish the season," Goldstein said. "I got pretty down probably more than I should have let myself. It was really just a matter of deciding that I needed to focus on the long process and not let how out of shape I felt get me down too much."
Goldstein again turned to her Husker teammates to help her through tough times. Though summer training would be grueling, Goldstein enlisted the help of fellow Husker senior Elizabeth Marsh to help her get back into shape.
"Running with Elizabeth helped me enormously because I knew I had to get my workouts in every week to keep up with her," Goldstein said. "She really, really helped me through because we'd talk on the run. It was usually longer runs, which are always more difficult. So that was a major thing in helping me get back."
Thanks to the summer training regimens, Goldstein's senior season in cross country has had a successful start. Goldstein placed fifth in Nebraska's win at the Creighton/UNO Classic and placed 10th in NU's first-place finish at the Woody Greeno/Nebraska Invitational.
A three-time team captain, Goldstein hopes to keep motivating herself and her teammates as Nebraska pushes into post-season competitions.
"We have a really close team," Goldstein said. "It's not like anybody is unmotivated to train or anything like that. We're all good friends and work together well, so we all work at just keeping a positive attitude during workouts. We are always talking with each other and being there when one person doesn't feel great. We really try to motivate each other. That's how I'm trying to lead, just by example and motivation."
Next weekend, Goldstein and the NU women's cross country team will compete once more in the regular season at the Indiana State Pre-Nationals before heading to the Big 12 Championships in Columbia, Mo., on Saturday, Oct. 31.