‘Thirty-year-old’ Nagell brings a dose of maturity to women’s cross country team

‘Thirty-year-old’ Nagell brings a dose of maturity to women’s cross country team

by David McCoy

Thirty years old and faster than ever.

Well, OK, not literally.

But that’s how Minnesota women’s cross country coach Gary Wilson talks about senior Zoe Nagell.

“Mentally, she’s like a 30-year-old,” Wilson said. “That’s one of the reasons she performed so well last year.”

Wilson used the illustration to describe Nagell’s maturity, which he said is the driving factor that made Nagell the Gophers’ top runner last year.

“At 20, (most people) are like ‘Oh, do they like me?’ All that crap,” Wilson said. “She has the attitude that, ‘This is how I live my life. If you don’t like it, you can take a hike.’ And that shows in everything she does.”

Nagell displays that attitude in the way she talks about how she views a meet.

“I don’t think about anyone else out there,” the Plymouth, Minn., native said. “I can’t control what anyone else does, so I just stay focused on myself.”

Nagell’s maturity and leadership blossomed at the end of last year. When the Gophers lost top runner Darja Vasiljeva to a leg injury, Nagell rose to the occasion when it mattered most.

She was the first Gopher finisher in both of the final two races, earning All-Midwest Region and team most valuable runner honors in the process.

Nagell’s momentum has carried over into this season. She won the team’s intrasquad race, leading the entire way, and placed third in the Oz Memorial Run.

Wilson is happy with Nagell’s continued success.

“She’s picking up right where she left off last year, and she appears to be faster (as well),” Wilson said.

Nagell had to overcome several health problems in order to return to her top form this year.

She missed most of the 2004 outdoor track season with mononucleosis, and, has been on prescription iron pills throughout the beginning of this year as a result of an iron deficiency.

But Nagell is taking better care of herself this season.

“I just needed to find a balance,” she said. “I’m making sure I get enough sleep, taking the iron supplements, and eating a really balanced diet now.”

Wilson, who has come to rely on Nagell’s durability, is putting a lot of responsibility on her shoulders.

“She’s going to be the glue that holds this all together,” Wilson said.

But junior Lauren Williams is confident her training partner can handle it.

“(Zoe) is one of the most mentally focused (runners) on our team,” Williams said. “She’s out there to help her teammates, and she’s kind of relieved some of the stress of the meets (for me). I’m not as nervous for the races because she’s not, or at least she doesn’t show it.”

Added Wilson: “She’s like the queen bee. They all gravitate toward her.”