Ladia Albertson-Junkans and McKenzie Melander joined Team USA Minnesota this month. Both athletes are from the Twin Cities area with Albertson-Junkans competing collegiately at the University of Minnesota and Melander at the University of Iowa.
“We’re happy to add two great Minnesota runners to our group,” said Team USA Minnesota coach Dennis Barker. “A lot of people here have followed the careers of these two throughout high school and college and are excited to see them continue on to the next level.”
Albertson-Junkans is from Stillwater. She was the Minnesota State High School Cross Country champion as a sophomore and competed in a range of events at the State Track & Field Championships including the 4x800 relay, 1600m and 3200m.
At the University of Minnesota she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in child development and a masters in public health and was a member of three track and field teams that won Big Ten titles in 2006, 2008 and 2009. She was also a two-time cross country All-American and helped lead the squad to its first Big Ten championship in 2007. In addition to finishing 19th at the 2006 NCAA Cross Country Championships, she holds the U women’s second best time in cross country at both the Big Ten and NCAA championships. She was also the 2009 Big Ten candidate for NCAA Woman of the Year.
After her collegiate running career, Albertson-Junkans stepped away from training and racing to focus on her academic and career interests and now works in child development research. During the past two years, she returned to competition and in 2012 won the Fargo Half Marathon, placed third at the Cow Harbor 10K with a time of 33:19, and was eighth at the USA 10 Mile Championships earlier this month with a personal best of 55:44.
Melander, who is from Apple Valley, went to Eastview High School where she placed third at the Minnesota State Cross Country Championships. In track, she finished second in the 1600 and 3200 meters as a junior and senior, ran on the third-place 3200-meter relay and helped her team win the Minnesota State title. Melander holds school records in the 1600m (4:59.25), 3200m (10:52.32) and cross country 4000m (14:28). She also was the recipient of the 2008 Twin Cities In Motion College Scholarship.
At the University of Iowa she was the 2012 Big Ten 5000m champion and the runner-up in the Big Ten 10,000m. She also qualified for the 2012 NCAA Outdoor Championships in the 5000m. Melander was a three-time academic all-Big Ten honoree, recipient of the Big Ten Medal of Honor, and holds the school record for the indoor mile (4:39.78). Since graduation, she has competed on the roads placing fourth at the 5th Season 8K and 10th at the Bix 7 Mile. Melander has a bachelor’s degree in speech and hearing science from Iowa and is currently working on her master’s in speech pathology at the University of Minnesota.