Augustana track and field took 10 athletes to compete in races in California last week.
Escaping the cold weather of South Dakota, the athletes competed at the 55th annual Mt. Sac Relays in Walnut, Calif. Thursday through Saturday, April 18-20, and at the Bryan Clay Invitational in Azusa, Calif. on Saturday, April 20.
The Mt. Sac Relay’s slogan is, “Where the world’s greatest athletes compete,” and the goal for Augustana was to reach provisional or automatic qualifying times to allow them to be eligible for the NCAA national championships in May.
Senior Runa Falch finished fifth in the Olympic Development Elite 10,000-meter race with a time of 34:50.41. Narrowly missing the automatic qualifying time for nationals, she provisionally qualified, and her time is currently the fastest Division II time in the event.
Fellow senior Kristin Brondbo also provisionally qualified in the 1,500 race at 4:29.80 at Mt. Sac on Thursday. The outdoor mile was one of the largest races at the event with 10 heats. Brondbo placed 53 of 172 women.
“When you know you are competing with great athletes everyone gets motivated to do their best,” Brondbo said.
California weather proved nicer than Sioux Falls’ and the athletes collectively said it was crucial to take advantage of it.
“That is why the California meet was taken very seriously, and the coach always tells us to put our best performance because we might not get better meets than this,” Brondbo said.
Three Vikings competed in the men’s steeplechase on Thursday, improving their provisional qualifying times. Senior Travis Beniak placed 13th in the Olympic Development Elite race with a time of 9:08.61, earning him the NSIC’s track athlete of the week. Freshman Harald Karbo clocked at 9:08.61, and sophomore Adam Braun finished at 9:15.99
On day two of the Mt. Sac Relays, senior Aaron Jung threw the shot put 16.7 meters, placing eighth and beating decathlon world record holder Ashton Eaton.
Jung previously set Augustana’s outdoor record in the shot put with a throw of 17.3 meters (56’ 9.25”) at the Sioux City Relays on April 13. Throwing more than three inches past he old record, the throw ranks Jung fourth among Division II athletes in the event and earned him the NSIC field athlete of the week.
At the Bryan Clay Invitational in Azusa, Calif., on Saturday, two Vikings stood out.
Brondbo won her section of the women’s 5,000-meter with a time of 17:12.98, nearly seven seconds under the provisionally-qualifying time for nationals.
Henrik Holmberg competed in both the high jump and long jump, and he took second in the long jump with a provisionally-qualifying personal best of 7.3 meters (23’ 11.5”). His jump earned him the NSIC field athlete of the week.
“I took off the board, and it literally felt like I was never going to land,” Holmberg said. “It was extremely satisfying to nail marks like that on a perfect day.”
Holmberg said one of the best parts of the meet was meeting decathlon Olympic gold medalist Bryan Clay after competing.
The spring weather, which Holmberg said has been cooler than even the spring in Norway, has helped him to value the warm days when he has the chance to perform well. “Cali was a great opportunity, and I think the team performed well once we had the chance.”
Holmberg will compete in the NSIC Multi Championships on Sunday and Monday, April 28-29 in Aberdeen, S.D.
The rest of the team will compete at the Drake Relays this weekend in Des Moines, Iowa.