Augustana’s cross-country teams began postseason competition with a strong showing at the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Championships on Oct. 25.
The men’s team built upon their season-long domination and winning tradition, placing five scorers in the top six. Senior Paul Yak won his third consecutive individual conference title with a time of 25:07.75 on the 8,000 meter course while leading the Vikings to their fifth straight team title.
“The mentality of the team approaching the conference meet was focused on making a statement,” Yak said. That statement resonated loud and clear at the finish line, as Tom and Harold Karbo followed Yak for second and fourth-place, respectively.
Adam Braun’s fifth-place finish and John Klecker’s sixth-place finish round out the Viking’s impressive 18-point performance. Following Augustana, the University of Sioux Fall’s 84 points earned a distant second.
With the individual title, Yak became just the second three-time champion in the NSIC’s 34-year history. Overall, the men’s team placed 10 runners on the All-NSIC first and second teams.
“Everyone is more focused because it’s ‘championship season,’ and when you put 10 guys in the top 20, that’s a dominating win,” Yak said. The performance also earned head coach Tracy Hellman his fifth NSIC men’s coach of the year award.
Although senior Kristin Brondbo placed second individually, the women’s team was unable to clinch their seventh consecutive conference championship.
In an unexpected win, University of Minnesota Duluth handed the Vikings their first non-victory of the season. Following Brondbo’s 21:10.18 finish on the 6,000 meter course, Meritxell Delgado and Runa Falch came in at 13th and 14th place overall. Kaitlyn Yoerg’s 16th place finish and Cassidy Soli’s 22nd place finish rounded out the 67 point performance, pushing the Viking women into second place behind Duluth’s 50 points.
Augustana placed four runners on the All-NSIC first and second team, with Brondbo earning first team honors for the fourth time in her career. While the runner-up finish is unusual for the women’s team, they have chosen to remain positive.
“Although we didn’t all run to our best potential, I think we’re looking at this as a blessing in disguise,” said Yoerg. “Yes, it is frustrating to get second, but we are so motivated and ready to show everyone what we can really do at the regional meet.”
At the Central Region Championship, the women’s team will look to defend their 2012 victory.
“After the conference meet, we know what we need to do to be a winning team. Now we just have to execute,” Yoerg said.
The Augustana women, who ran for second place at last year’s NCAA Championship meet, will look to regain their winning form at the regional and national meets.
“Every year is a new year. It puts us in a great position to show everyone that Augustana is still a great team,” Yoerg said.
The men’s team will also look to defend their 2012 Central Region Championship title. Looking ahead, Yak said the team hopes to continue their domination before competing at the NCAA Championships.
“At nationals, we have a team goal of finishing in the top three,” said Yak, who helped the Vikings to a fourth place finish in last year’s NCAA Championship meet.
“At the end of the season, I believe this team is going to go in the books as the best team in Augie history,” Yak said. “Every year the team has improved and it’s nice to know that I was a part of that. I’m excited to see what the team is going to do at nationals.”
The Vikings will host the NCAA Central Region Championship this Saturday, Nov. 9, at Yankton Trails Park in Sioux Falls, S.D. The women’s race will start at 10:30 a.m., with the men’s race to follow at 11:30 a.m.
The top five men’s teams and the top four women’s teams will race at the NCAA Division II Championships Nov. 23 in Spokane, Wash.