Athlete Spotlight: Handley cross country runner Candace Nelson

Posted: October 22, 2013

Handley Cross Country runner Candace Nelson
Candace Nelson

Handley High School 17-year-old senior

Sport: Cross Country

Parents: Aaron and Celia Nelson

Hometown: Manassas (moved to Winchester at 7 months old)

Biggest strength and weakness in cross country: [Strength], my work ethic. I work really hard. [Weakness], I had a stress fracture in my foot, and sometimes that makes running harder. I got it in January and I was out two months from running because of it. Last race, my foot started bothering me halfway through.

Funniest person on the team: Abby Swartz. She’s always doing random things. She likes playing jokes on us.

Something people may not know about Coach Emily Budnyk-Putt: She is terrified of heights. We went to a camp and did zip lining [at the Massanutten Resort], and she was really scared.

Most memorable moment in cross country: Last year when we made it to states, because the cross country team at Handley hadn’t made it since [2006]. That was a big accomplishment.

Most embarrassing moment in cross country: When I went the wrong way on a course and I got disqualified. That happened last year at Sherando at their course, and it was confusing. I was running one way and my teammates were facing me at one point. And then my coach asked me what was wrong because she thought I was coming toward her because I was injured or something, but I was actually going the wrong way. People still joke about it today.

Three people you can have dinner with, dead or alive: [President] Barack Obama because I think he would be interesting to talk to; my grandfather, because I never got to meet him because he passed away before I was born; and Rachel Cox [the first student killed during the Columbine High School shooting in 1999]. We had an assembly at school about Rachel’s Challenge (a program designed to help combat bullying and foster togetherness). She challenged people to be nice. I was really affected by that and I thought it was an interesting presentation. I would be interested to talk to her in person and see where her mind was.

Favorite Quote: “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” - Albert Einstein.

Favorite place to eat in town: Chipotle, because I’m vegetarian and I have options there.

Pre-race routine/ritual: Before every race, I make sure I have peanut butter. I’ve been doing that for a year a half. I did it before a big meet in track, I did well, and then I just kept doing that from there.

Plans after high school: I plan to go to college, hopefully Christopher Newport University, but I’m still deciding. I want to be a physician assistant one day. I like helping people.

— Compiled by  Robert Niedzwiecki