One thousand miles away and less than a year ago, a girl with a passion for running could be found in Charleston, South Carolina enjoying the sun, beach and waves.
That girl was Mads Nelson, University of Nebraska at Omaha Track and Field athlete.
Now, Nelson can be found in Omaha where the winters are unlike any weather she’s ever experienced in Charleston.
“The weather’s a little crazy here,” Nelson said. “I miss the beach.”
Although Nelson initially didn’t know where Nebraska was on the map, her heart was set on UNO after her first visit.
“The coaches had a big impact on me,” Nelson said, “My teammates are also a huge part of why I’m here.”
Nelson became a runner naturally; both her mother and her brother are triathletes.
She competed in the Summit League championships on Feb. 26. The team placed fifth overall.
Nelson runs to meet new friends, have fun, and wind down.
“I can’t explain—it’s a weird feeling you get from running,” Nelson said, “It allows me to be who I am.”
Nelson’s family and coaches are the biggest motivators in her life.
“My family supports everything I do,” Nelson said, “And Chris is one of the best coaches I’ve ever had— he really pushes you to be the best you can be.”
Nelson describes her teammates as her sisters; they’ve become a family.
“We’re with each other 24/7— they’re all my best friends,” Nelson said.
In Nelson’s spare time, she gives back to the community by volunteering at the Children’s Hospital.
She also focuses on her charity “Miles for Smiles,” which was started when her father, a member of the U.S. Army, was deployed.
Besides running, volunteering, and spending time with her teammates, Nelson dedicates much of her time to academics.
Nelson is majoring in Bio Mechanical Engineering with a minor in Medical Humanities. She plans to one day return to South Carolina, attend the University of South Carolina for med-school, and become a pediatric oncologist in the future.
“I try to stay focused on school work because I have a lot going on,” Nelson said. “I don’t have a lot of time for a social life—or for sleep!”
Although Nelson lives a very busy lifestyle, she says it’s all worth it.
“When I first came here, I was really struggling with athletics,” Nelson said, “I got injured during cross-country, I was far from home, and really considered transferring.”
Nelson credits her parents for encouraging her to stay and tough it out.
“I’m so glad they convinced me,” Nelson said, “I have fallen in love with this school—it’s the perfect fit for me.”
Although Nelson’s parents live in South Carolina, they still make it to almost all of her races.
Nelson says it’s really hard to be away from her family, but she is so grateful for this opportunity.
“Because of my coaches and team, my life has changed in such a positive way,” Nelson said.
It’s difficult to leave a paradise of blue skies and ocean views for chilly Midwest winters, but for this South Carolina native, the trade has proven to be worth it—as Nelson says she’s received a community and “forever friends” that will stretch across the map.