In her own shrewd self-assessment, Melanie Nun's high school cross country career was less than stellar.

Of course, that's an analysis from a runner, a particular breed of athlete that rarely is content even if they score personal-best times and earn first-place medals.

Nun's high school career at Broomfield's Legacy High School followed an arc most young athletes would gladly take, debuting at the state meet with a 38th-place finish in 2009 and gradually moving up the food chain until she posted a fifth-place finish as a senior in 2012.

While solid numbers, they may not exactly scream as a harbinger of collegiate success. Especially at a program as decorated and demanding as the one at the University of Colorado. Nevertheless, Nun stepped in and made a significant impact as a freshman in 2013. Which only made last year's injury-plagued campaign all the more painful for the Colorado native.

"My freshman year was such a great experience for me, because I was never that great in high school," Nun said. "To come here to such a storied program and have success was exciting. And then to go from this great high to actually having success with this great program to the low of not being able to run at all was really rough."

Her rough analysis of her high school accolades aside, Nun arrived at CU in 2013 and made an immediate splash, finishing 14th overall at the Pac-12 championships and sixth at the NCAA Mountain Regional. Nun capped her rookie year by ranking as CU's third scorer at nationals, finishing 68th overall for a Buffs team that finished seventh in the team standings.


After such a promising debut Nun was ready for more in 2014, but her health wouldn't cooperate. A strained calf was the first sign of what turned out to be a stress fracture in Nun's lower leg, which ultimately put her on the sideline the entire season. Nun, who took a redshirt year, hoped to recover in time for the 2015 track and field season last spring, but after a few races it became clear she would have to shut it down until the fall.

"It really wasn't going well, so we decided to shut it down and focus on this (fall) season," Nun said. "It was a grind over the summer. Honestly, I didn't realize that I was back in good shape until the Pac-12 meet. And it was like, 'Whoa, where did that come from?' It was a really big surprise, but it was exciting."

Nun's summer of intense work paid off at the Pac-12 finals three weeks ago, as she finished as CU's third scorer while placing seventh overall after finishing the 6K course in 20 minutes, 11.1 seconds. Nun finished 23rd at last week's NCAA Mountain Regional as the Buffs won their third straight regional title.

Nun's recovery and subsequent contributions have been perhaps the biggest pleasant surprise of what is shaping up as another banner season for the program.

"Melanie had a greatly interrupted 2014-15 and frankly — and I'd say this with her sitting here — I had minimal aspirations for her coming into this fall," CU coach Mark Wetmore said. "Really, I think what we reasonably hoped for was to get her healthy and get some momentum in her training, and then see what happened.

"Well, that happened. And what else happened is that she's the best runner she's ever been. She's happy and she's training and nothing hurts. Now she's a factor and she'll make a big difference in our team."

Pat Rooney: or