Augustana track and field had a strong showing last Friday and Saturday at the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC) meet at Mankato.
Bringing home two individual championships, sophomores Kayla Mescher and TJ Gleason celebrated first place finishes in the 800-meter and 5000-meter, respectively.
Overall, men placed third out of 11 teams, and the women took sixth out of 13 teams in the conference.
On Friday, Mescher ran a slow pace for prelims in the 800 in order to have a chance of qualifying for nationals. Barely making it to finals at two minutes 26.91 seconds, she dominated the race on Saturday to take first with a 2:14.42 in finals.
Friday’s preliminary race for Mescher was the slowest she’s ever ran, by design.
“We wanted her to use as little energy as possible in the prelims,” assistant coach Greg Binstock said. “On Saturday, we wanted to try and qualify for nationals.”
Binstock said it’s quite hard to hit the preliminary qualifying marks for nationals at a conference meet because of prelims the day before finals.
“I felt really good on Saturday,” Mescher said. “My legs were fine. I didn’t feel like I had gone out and raced.”
Mescher said the strategies the coaching staff gave her before really helped her confidence coming into the weekend.
“We asked her to take the lead from the gun to finish. We knew she was going to be pushed and that’s exactly how it played out,” Binstock said.
Other strong performances by the women’s team included Katie Guse placing third in the high jump at 1.63 meters, and Kristin Brondbo taking second in the 3000 (9:50.01), and third in both the 1 mile (4:58.85) and the 5000 (17:42.77).
Both Guse and Brondbo have qualified for nationals, and join Mescher (800, DMR), Colleen Everson (DMR), and Runa Falch (1 mile, 3K, DMR).
Junior Karmen Nyberg placed sixth in the 200 and freshman Emma Anderson took seventh in the 1000 to round out the women’s points at 54, while University of Mary women finished with 185 points for the conference title.
Augustana men took home the third place finish with 102.5 points after all 19 events, but Minnesota State Mankato dominated the conference with 207.5 total points.
Strong finishers for Augustana included third places by juniors Henrik Hansson in the mile and CJ Hamm in the shot put. Sophomore Khor Kong also finished third in the 600.
Henrik Holmberg completed the third place finishes in high jump, going over the bar at 2.05 meters to set a new school record.
“On the men’s side we knew we were going to have a really good meet,” Binstock said. “We felt that our athletes were set up distance all the way through jumps, sprints, throws… They were set to have their best meet of the season.”
The pole vault school record was also broken last weekend by senior Jacob Pohlmann who tied for eighth place after clearing 4.49 meters.
“Throughout the year I’ve continually gotten better and better,” Pohlmann said. “So one of my main goals for this year was to get the school record.”
With plans to redshirt the outdoor season to continue his eligibility next year, this meet was Pohlmann’s last opportunity.
“It was just a kind of relief and excitement because I had been trying to get it all indoor season,” he said.
On the distance side, Gleason and fellow sophomore Adam Braun had strong races in both the 3000 and the 5000. Braun took second in the 3K (8:32.72) with Gleason right behind him for third (8:33.30).
Then in the 5K, Gleason took the lead for a 14:54.53 first-place finish and Braun followed to grab second with 14:57.21.
Gleason said he was tired on Saturday after his races on Friday, but felt good going into the race. He didn’t have a game plan for the 5K but tried to draft off the lead runners.
“I just figured if I sat on them long enough and it came down to a kick, I could see what I could muster up,” he said.
After being tired that morning, Gleason said he doesn’t even remember how he felt physically after the race because of the emotional aspect.
“Having all my friends at the finish line just hugging me and congratulating me. It was euphoric.”
The 5K was rounded out with junior Paul Yak taking fifth and freshman John Klecker placing sixth to take four Augie men to the podium.
Henrik Holmberg heads to nationals after auto-qualifying in the heptathlon during the multi-conference two weeks ago. Nationals are March 7 through 9 in Birmingham, Ala.