Augustana adds new varsity sport

Speed walking

Not Poland

Augustana designates speed walking as next varsity sport

A new sport at Augustana has recently given one student a certain amount of notoriety in the athletic community. Senior Matthew Schilling is the first student to attend Augustana on a speed-walking.

A fast walker his whole life, Schilling is a natural for the sport. Even as a child, he used his long legs to outdistance friends and family without exerting the effort of running. That is not to say that Schilling did not have to train for his scholarship. He walked his butt off.  

“I’ve worked many long hours honing my craft,” Schilling said. “So to see that dedication pay off is great.”

Those hours include long walks, often on the bike trails surrounding Sioux Falls. Avid biker junior Michal Barnes often sees him during her daily rides.

“It’s always a bit odd to see him, because most people are biking or running,” Barnes said. “Then you see Matthew in a matching track suit, speed walking, and he  refuses to look at others on the bike trail.”

The Augustana speed walking team is growing steadily. Junior Alex Meyer hopes to take over captaincy for Schilling after the latter graduates. He looks up to Schilling but hopes to set some new records of his own next year.

“Coming to Augustana made speed walking a possibility for me to pursue,” Meyer said. “Now is my chance to do what I’ve wanted to do for a long time.”

Junior Sage Backer follows the team to all of its competitions. She grew up watching her grandmother train and compete in speed walking championships and remains a fan of the sport. She is one of Schilling’s biggest fans.

“There’s no question about it: speed walking is amazing,” Backer said. “I am so happy to be there for Matt. He has some real potential. With some hard work and extreme dedication, he has a good chance of making it to the big leagues.”

Schilling received his scholarship as a senior, a last-minute success to uphold the family legacy of athletic excellence. He prides himself on this accomplishment, saying “The Schilling legacy at Augustana will continue for another year. I know it might not get as much attention as Casey did for basketball, but I’m carrying on the proud tradition of my family.”

As a competitive speed walker, Schilling has often faced criticism that speed walking is not a real sport. Mike Shafer is one of the skeptics.

“I think it’s stupid,” he says of the scholarship. “But I want one.”

Schilling said his haters are his motivators.

“I know some people will say this is all fake, speed walking isn’t real, but just you wait,”Schilling said. “I’m going to go all the way to the Olympics for speed walking.”