The men’s and women’s cross country teams jumped into their season on Sept. 1 with the annual Twilight Run, the largest sporting event held by Augustana.
Tracy Hellman, director of cross country and track and field said the event recorded its greatest number of participants yet, with 75 high schools and 36 colleges in attendance.
Augustana’s women’s team ran a 5K event and placed third overall. Senior Caroline Sudbeck finished with a time of 19:11.31 placing 57th.
“The Augustana Twilight is one of our biggest ways to fundraise throughout the year and has an awesome racing atmosphere,” Sudbeck said.“The college races take place at night, so the course is outlined by glow sticks. I think there were around 2,500 runners competing at this year’s Twilight.”
The men’s team ran a 4-mile event and placed fourth overall. Graduate Student Colten Brand placed ninth with a time of 19:40.52.
“The team is really looking forward to honing in on our abilities,” Brand said. “Your teammates are always there for you. Your internal motivation is nothing compared to the external motivation you’ve got going on around you.”
Hellman said the Vikings performed well at their first meet of the season.
“I feel very confident in my ability to peak my athletes at the right time and so I don’t really put a lot of emphasis on what we do early on,” Hellman said. “I tell my team that I don’t care about what we do in September. It’s about what we do in November.”
The Twilight Run began 13 years ago, after Hellman saw Yankton Trail Park illuminated for a night-time soccer match one summer.
“And it just dawned on me,” Hellman said. “I was like, ‘I want to have a cross country meet under the lights.’”
Soon after the first race, Hellman began to receive messages from other cross country coaches asking to attend the meet. More than a decade, the number of participants has continued to sky rocket.
On Sept. 8, the teams competed at the South Dakota State University Classic.
The women’s team placed 5th overall in the 5K event. Sudbeck placed 25th with a time of 18:49.54.
The men’s team ran an 8K event finishing fifth. Brand placed seventh with a 25:01.52 finish.
Hellman said he did not run all of his athletes at the SDSU Classic, which affected their overall placings.
Sudbeck and Brand said their biggest challenge this year is staying healthy and preventing injuries, which is hard to do in a sport that relies on stamina.
Sudbeck, Brand and Hellman are looking forward to what the team will achieve this season.
Becoming closer with his teammates is one reason why Brand is excited for this season. He’s optimistic and hopes to maintain the team’s seventh-place ranking in the 2023 NCAA Divison II Men’s Cross Country National Coach’s Poll.
Looking forward to the rest of the season, Hellman said the Vikings’ fitness and health seem to be in good shape.
“I like our energy. I like our chemistry. I like our health,” Hellman said.
According to Hellman, the teams’ fitness and health will be integral in helping them achieve their goals of winning their conference, regionals and securing at least a top-five finish at the NCAA Championship.
Both teams will be traveling to St. Paul, Minnesota, to compete in the Roy Griak Invitational on Sept. 22.
“I have a lot of Minnesota kids on my team and so that’s always kind of a big meet for them, just because in high school they always ran it,” Hellman said. “We’re going to see how good we are because I’ll run my full squad at this meet.”