All photos by Brooke Kinney
Augustana men’s and women’s cross-country teams are on the road to the national meet after placing first and third, respectively, at the central region championship meet at Sioux Falls’ Yankton Trail Park last Saturday.
“I felt both teams accomplished our goals of qualifying for the national meet,” head coach Tracy Hellman said. “It is never easy, yet in our program it has become an expectation.”
The men’s team led with a strong 37 points, and the women finished only six points behind second-place finisher Southwest Baptist (110) with 116 points. Both men’s and women’s scores will advance the teams to the NCAA Championships in Spokane, Wash. on Nov. 23.
“We wanted to get some confidence going into nationals, and I think we did that,” senior Paul Yak said of the team’s success at the regional meet.
Yak finished first place individually with a time of 31:13.99 for the 10,000-meter race, and said he hopes to continue his strong individual record with a finish in the top five individuals at nationals.
Additionally, Yak was named Central Region Athlete of the Year by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA).
Hellman was also awarded for the teams’ successes. He received the Central Region Coach of the Year for the third time in his career.
At the regionals meet, senior Tom Karbo finished third at 31:26, and the rest of the men’s team finished in the top 25, which means that all seven members of the team were named All-Region honorees.
Junior Adam Braun finished tenth at 32:02, followed immediately by sophomore Harald Karbo at 32:03 and junior TJ Gleason at 32:11.
Senior Kristin Brondbo led the women’s team with a second place individual finish, coming in at 20:45.12 for the 6,000-meter race.
“Personally, I’ve had progress every race,” Brondbo said. “I think I might peak at nationals, hopefully.”
Freshman Meritxell Delga Do took 20th place at 21:58.
Senior Runa Falch, who won the women’s race at the regional meet last year, finished 28th with a time of 22:06, just short of earning her fourth All-American honors.
Junior Kaitlyn Yoerg finished closely behind Falch in 30th place at 22:11, and freshman Cassidy Soli was Augustana’s fifth runner at 22:27.
“Our women had a decent race, but I feel the best is yet to come,” Tracy Hellman said. “We had some unfortunate injuries that happened with our team, but we are getting healthy and ready for nationals.”
Despite fewer numbers on the team than last year and some injured runners, the women’s team still hopes to finish as one of the top teams at nationals, according to Brondbo.
“Our coach believes we can still get a trophy, which is the top four,” she said. “It’s going to be tough … All of the girls need a top race for us to do well.”
The women’s team is currently ranked 14th in the nation, and the men’s team jumped to a top five ranking, according to the USTFCCCA, and Hellman said his goal is for the men to finish the season as one of the top two teams.
Yak said in order to earn a first place national title, the men’s team will have to work to beat Colorado colleges Adams State and Western State.
“Everybody would have to run their A game,” he said. “I think it’s definitely doable. We just have to run real tough.”
Hellman said the biggest challenge is to stay healthy and feeling prepared for the national meet in Spokane.
“At the end of the season, the goal is to feel good, motivated and fresh.”