Nelson, a former track and field All-American at the University of Texas, is ambitious — and also realistic. She knows she can’t run forever. She knew it after placing first in the 4-x-400 meter relay at the 2014 NCAA Track and Field Championships, and after signing a contract to run professionally under a Nike sponsorship following her college graduation.
“I think it’s important to keep in mind what’s next,” said Nelson, who is originally from Greenville, South Carolina. “The average female professional track athlete retires around 30 or 32. Sometimes, we as athletes get so consumed in our sport that we fail to think about the fact that the majority of our life will occur after the sport is over.”
After competing professionally for three years and sustaining some back injuries, Nelson decided to begin the transition to life after track last year by pursuing a master’s degree.
“I got my undergrad degree in economics and I knew I wanted to go into finance,” she said. “I live in Newport News and when I saw VCU had a master’s [concentration] in finance I jumped on it immediately.”
Nelson spent the fall of 2017 teaching physical education, training and commuting — four days a week — to Richmond to take night classes at VCU. At the end of her first semester, she decided to put her track career on hold.
“It was definitely a blessing that VCU had this program. I needed the flexibility to work and train and still get to class,” Nelson said. “[But] I realized what I was putting myself through — trying to nurse an injury, train, go to school full time and work full time — that something had to give.”
With track on the back burner, Nelson completed the two-year program a semester early. She spent the past summer studying in London through VCU’s International Consulting Program, which provides business students an opportunity to work with companies abroad.
Nelson recently accepted a full-time position at Capital One. And though her track career is on hold, she hasn’t ruled out a comeback.
“If I can nurse myself back to health then I would not rule out going back,” she said. “I’m 26. Time is in my favor. With Tokyo 2020 coming up, that would be excellent — it’s always been my dream to make an Olympic team.”