Class of 1964
Earned 4 letters 1961-1964
Cross-country 2 letters
- 1963 Team tri-captain
- 1962 Region Meet - Top 15 finisher; Minnesota State Cross-country Meet qualifier
- 1963 Minneapolis City Conference Meet - 3rd place; Minnesota State Cross-country Meet qualifier
Track 2 letters
- 1964 Team captain
- 1963 Minneapolis City Conference Track Meet - 2nd place in the mile; Minnesota State Track Meet qualifier
- 1964 Minneapolis City Conference Track Meet - 1st place in the mile; Minnesota State Track Meet qualifier
- 1964 Minnesota State Track Meet - 2nd place in the mile
- 1964 - 5th fastest national high school time (4:17.9)
- 1964-1968 - 12 time All-American in Cross-country and track while attending St. Cloud State University
- 1967 Pan American Games - 1st place in 5,000 and 10,000 meter events
- 1967 World University Games - 2nd place in 5,000 and 10,000 meter events
- 1967 AAU Meet - 6 mile champion
- 1968 AAU Meet - 3rd place in 10,000 meter event
- 1968 United States Olympic Track Team
- Member of St. Cloud State University Athletic Hall of Fame
- Member of Minnesota Track and Field Hall of Fame
- Member of Drake Relays Hall of Fame
- Member of Collegiate NAIA Track and Field Hall of Fame
Van Nelson was one of Washburn's outstanding cross country and track athletes winning four letters, two in cross-country and two in track. He developed into a world-class distance runner after graduating from Washburn.
In cross-country, as a junior in the fall of 1962, Van finished in the top 15 in the region and qualified for the Minnesota State Cross-country Meet. In his senior year in the fall of 1963, Van was named captain by his teammates. That fall he finished third in the City Conference Meet and again qualified for the state cross-country meet.
In track, Van was a two-year letterman. In the spring of 1963 as a junior, Van finished second in the mile at the city conference championships and qualified for the Minnesota State Track and Field Championships. Van was a tri-captain of the 1964 team. As a senior, he won the indoor mile at the Twin Cities Indoor Meet setting a state record. He won the city conference championship in the mile and qualified for the state track meet where he finished second in the mile with a time of 4:19.9.
Running during the 1964 season, Van set a Washburn record in the mile with a time of 4:17.9, which that year was the fifth fastest time in the nation for a high school miler.
Van Nelson graduated from Washburn in June 1964. He subsequently attended State Cloud State University captaining the cross-country and track teams all four years. He was a twelve time All-American runner in various indoor and outdoor distance events winning seven gold medals and two silver medals in four years of NAIA competition.
Van won gold medals in the 5,000 and 10,000 meter events at the 1967 Pan American Games. That same year, he was double silver medalist at the World University Games.
Van was the AAU six-mile champion in 1967 setting a world record and finished second in the AAU 10,000 meter event in 1968.
Van was on the United States Track Team at the 1968 Summer Olympics and was a member of the United States AAU Summer Track and Field Team for six years.
Van is a member of the St. Cloud State University Athletic Hall of Fame, the Minnesota Track and Field Hall of Fame, the Drake Relays Hall of Fame and the Collegiate NAIA Track and Field Hall of Fame.