ALBION - Kristin Nelson is currently one of Albion's most accomplished track and field athletes, holding school records in the long jump, triple jump and the 400-meter dash.
As the Iron Mountain native heads into the final months of her Albion career, she is not only looking forward to breaking some of her own records, but also to attending graduate school at National University of Health Sciences in Lombard, Ill., where she will pursue a chiropractic degree next fall.
Nelson has two uncles (Michael Mellon of Iron Mountain and Peter Mellon of Frederick, Md.) and a grandfather (Robert D. Mellon of Iron Mountain) who are chiropractors, so it would seem that she was destined for the same career path.
Iron Mountain’s Kristin Nelson competes at a recent Albion track meet.
But she says that this is not the career she had in mind when she arrived at Albion.
"I've always been interested in health, ever since I was little, but when I actually had to start making decisions about what I wanted to do with my life (after Albion), I started looking at physical training and physicians' assistant schools," said the daughter of Thomas and Lisa Nelson.
But those fields ultimately did not seem to be the right fit.
It was only after a great deal of research about chiropractic schools and the career itself that Nelson finally decided that it was the career for her.
"Chiropractic just combined everything that I liked (in a profession)," Nelson said.
While Nelson is looking forward to chiropractic school, she remains focused on the upcoming track season.
Of course, as a kinesiology major, Nelson has been able to use what she learns in the classroom and apply it to her work on the track. Heather Betz, one of Albion College's exercise science professors who has taught Nelson in four separate courses, says, "Kristin has always been very focused on learning the material and applying it to either herself in relation to track and field or in relation to her interest in chiropractic medicine."
Betz isn't the only staff member at Albion who thinks that Nelson has been able to use her high academic abilities to help her gain athletic success.
Women's track and field assistant coach Hayden Smith, who won the long jump while representing Albion in 1970, says that "all of Kristin's accomplishments as an athlete have come with a mindset that academics come first. That's why she has done so well in the classroom, with athletics as a complement."
Lance Coleman, head track and field coach for the Briton women, believes that in addition to her high marks in the classroom, Nelson also has an extraordinary athletic IQ.
"What makes her do so well," says Coleman, "is she catches on to coaching cues quickly and often is a second set of eyes for other athletes too."
A member of Alpha Xi Delta sorority and secretary of Albion's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, Nelson balances academic, athletic and social calendars seamlessly.
"Actually," she says, "I find that my grades have been better in the spring semester when I have track because it forces me to plan my time. Everything always gets done. I like being busy."
Nelson claims that even before she began her career at Albion, she already had her sights set on breaking the long jump and 400-meter dash records. She had never competed in the triple jump before her freshman year as a Briton.
When asked about the record she enjoyed breaking the most, Nelson says that the long jump is her favorite.
"Before coming to Albion, I looked at all of the records. When I looked at the long jump, I thought 'that one needs to come down,'" said Nelson with a laugh.
She broke the record at the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association championships at the end of her junior season. Another competitor had taken over first place before Nelson's last jump, and it was her next jump that broke the record.
"I just got enough adrenaline and ran down there and jumped, and as soon as I heard it (the distance) I knew that I had broken the record." That jump made her the league champion, making it that much more special.
Coleman says that Nelson "quietly goes about the business of preparing for her weekly challenges and never reveals her desire to win until she hits the runway or gets in the starting blocks. Her scary steel glare says it all."
With the 2013 season under way, Nelson has her sights set on breaking her own records before she graduates. She also wants to break the 200-meter dash record this season.
"Coming into Albion I didn't think I could do that, because it's a really fast time, but looking at some of my times last year, I feel like I can actually do this now," Nelson said.
Whether or not she accomplishes those goals this spring, Nelson will leave Albion having accomplished great things both in athletics and academics. As she moves on to chiropractic school, her professors are confident she will succeed.
"I have no doubt that Kristin will be successful in graduate school," Betz said. "I think chiropractic medicine is a great field that our exercise science students are well prepared for, and I'm thrilled to see Kristin going that route. She has an appreciation for and a desire to further her knowledge of the body - how it works, how to treat injuries, and how to help people meet their physical goals."
(TRAVIS TEKIELE is with the Albion sports information department)