When Bethanie Brown first arrived at Iowa State University, she made quite the splash.
The Waterville native became only the sixth cross-country runner in the history of the program to earn All-America honors after a 37th-place finish at the NCAA championship meet in 2013.
The next season, Brown helped lead the Cyclones to an NCAA runner-up team finish, before illnesses and nagging injuries derailed the remainder of her sophomore campaign, forcing her to redshirt.
Brown did not let those misfortunes stop her. She’ll be one of three Maine natives competing for coach Andrea Grove-McDonough’s Cyclones in Saturday’s NCAA championships at Terre Haute, Indiana.
Two other Mainers, Dan Curts of Ellsworth and Bethel’s Josef Holt-Andrews, helped the Iowa State men’s team earn its first appearance in the NCAA’s since 2009.
Brown, a redshirt junior, has had an outstanding fall campaign for the Cyclones. She was Iowa State’s No. 2 runner at the Big 12 championships earlier this month as it won the team crown.
“Having Bethanie out there has been huge for us,” Grove-McDonough said. “I think she’s going to run terrific on Saturday. She’s an athlete who knows how to handle this environment.”
After sitting out the 2014-15 indoor and outdoor track seasons and the 2015-16 cross-country and indoor track campaigns, Brown returned to action last spring. She placed fourth in the 5,000 meters at the Big 12 championships and won that race at the Drake Relays in 16 minutes, 25.19 seconds.
Brown has a 5K track personal best of 16:09.17, set in the spring of 2014.
Grove-McDonough said the roadblocks Brown hit have made her stronger.
“Not just as an athlete but as a young woman,” she said. “To come out of it on the other side, I think one, she’s just believed in herself, and two, she’s a fighter.”
At Waterville, Brown won a whopping 17 state championships between cross-country and track.
She sat out last week’s NCAA Midwest regional qualifying meet, in which the Cyclones finished third and earned an at-large NCAA bid, to rest up for Saturday’s race.
Grove-McDonough is hopeful for a top-10 team finish.
“With Bethanie, we have more depth,” she said. “Part of the reason we’re so excited and so optimistic is because we have her back in the lineup.”
Brown also has built up her training base steadily.
“She continues to build fitness every week, and she’s going to be in an even better place than she was at Big 12,” Grove-McDonough said. “I’m excited and optimistic about what can happen Saturday.”
The women will run a 6-kilometer race on Saturday while the men run an 8K race.
Curts and Holt-Andrews, who have 17 Maine state championships between them, sparked coach Martin Smith’s Iowa State men’s team to a fourth-place run at the NCAA qualifier, and the Cyclones were selected to participate in the NCAA field.
Curts and Holt-Andrews are both redshirt sophomores, and were recruited heavily by assistant coach Jeremy Sudbury, a former University of Oklahoma runner and teammate and roommate of Bangor native and ex-Sooner Riley Masters.
In fact, Sudbury said it was Masters who urged him to check out the talented Curts and Holt-Andrews.
Curts was one of the best runners ever to come through eastern Maine, and he won 11 state championships between cross-country and track and field.
Curts has put together an impressive resume at Iowa State, becoming the first Iowa State freshman since 2008 to compete in the NCAAs, placing 205th overall. He also was a first-team, All-Big 12 selection in 2014.
Curts is the only man in ISU’s lineup who has run in the national championships, so his experience will be counted upon heavily.
“The biggest way it helps is that there’s nothing like the national cross country championships,” Sudbury said.
On the track, Curts has posted a personal best of 3:45.90 in the 1,500 meters and an 8:09.98 in the 3,000.
Holt-Andrews, a six-time state champ at Telstar High School, holds a personal best of 8:31.69 in the 3,000, established in finishing fourth in that distance at the Penn State Relays last winter. He was 33rd individually in last fall’s Big 12 cross-country championships.
“He’s really developed well,” Sudbury said.
Follow Ryan McLaughlin on Twitter at @rmclaughlin23.