Even in the dark, the Augustana cross country team doesn’t lose sight of the finish line. Both the men’s and women’s teams finished strong against Division I competition in the third annual Twilight meet, hosted by Augustana on Sept. 6.
“In years past for that meet, we’ve kind of easily dominated, so it was nice to have some better competition toward the front this year,” said junior Adam Braun, who took third place overall and first place for Augustana in the men’s division.
The Twilight meet, unlike other cross country meets, is run during the evening. Music plays, and many runners wear glow sticks.
“We try to have a great atmosphere,” graduate assistant coach Dan Allen said. “It’s still a competition, but it’s an early season meet that really doesn’t mean a whole lot.”
This year’s participating teams came from 21 different colleges and eight high schools, including four other NSIC teams and two DI schools.
“Each year [Twilight] has gotten bigger and bigger,” Allen said.
The fun atmosphere did not distract the teams from taking the lead. The men finished second place after the team from University of Nebraska Lincoln, a DI school, and the women’s team took first place.
“A lot of schools stepped up and had some good competition,” Braun said. “It made us hungry for more, for better performances later.”
The Twilight meet provides the teams with an indication of where they are and what they need to improve, according to senior Runa Falch.
“If you need to improve, you have a lot of time,” Falch said. “If you’re in good shape, that’s great too.”
Falch placed first overall for women, and, according to Allen, has potential to place in the top five in the nation this year along with senior Kristin Brondbo. Allen also said fans should be watching Braun, senior Tom Karbo and senior Paul Yak on the men’s team.
Along with individual talent, the cross country teams have their sights set on achieving success at all levels of competition this season, according to Braun.
“I think we’re all pretty confident in what we’re able to do,” he said. “We’re going into it a lot more level-headed and realistic than last year.”
The greatest obstacle for the cross country team’s success this season will be avoiding injury. Two members of the team, Karbo and junior Gabi Swoboda returned this year after recovering from injuries last season.
“It’s always kind of a challenge to stay healthy, not injured,” Falch said. “You’re working really hard and balancing on this edge between too much and increasing your shape.”
After the success of the Twilight meet, both teams are off to a healthy start.
According to Allen, the first “big test” for the cross country team will be the upcoming Chili Pepper Invite in Fayettville, Arkansas on Oct. 5. Other important upcoming meets include the NSIC conference championship on Oct. 26 and the NCAA regional meet on Nov. 9, both of which will be hosted in Sioux Falls.