SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – A look at the numbers creates a positive outlook for Augustana’s 2012 men’s and women’s cross country teams.
A year ago, coach Tracy Hellman took 14 runners to the championships in Spokane, Wash. Twelve of those participants checked in with Hellman last week to begin preparations for the 2012 season.
Augustana’s 2011 campaign significantly elevated the teams’ national exposure. The women won the program’s first national championship and just the second team crown in the college’s athletic history. The men were sixth at nationals, matching the program’s best finish.
“We are obviously excited about the potential for our teams as we enter the 2012 season,” Hellman said. “This year we have the opportunity to do some great things as we have an experienced and veteran group. But we need to stay healthy and progress as we get closer to the championship season. If we can do this, I feel positive that special things can happen again with Augustana cross country.”
This season the women seek their sixth consecutive conference title, having won the last four Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference crowns to go along with the 2007 North Central Conference championship. The men will be aiming to finish on top of the NSIC pack for the fourth straight year.
Nationally, senior Leah Hansen led the Augustana women’s title run in Spokane with a 12th place finish. Juniors Runa Falch and Kristin Brondbo were 13th and 15th, respectively. The top three men were junior Paul Yak (11th), senior Ryan Evans (32nd), and senior Tom Karbo (45th).
Talent and depth are also strengths of the Vikings’ men’s cross country team. In addition to Yak, Evans, and Karbo, Augustana returns its fourth through sixth national finishers from 2011. Sophomore Adam Braun was 68th, junior Jordan Slusser 91st, and sophomore TJ Gleason 116th.
Bolstering the men’s roster is senior Travis Beniak, who was redshirted in 2011. Running unattached, Beniak won the inaugural Augustana Twilight meet a year ago. He also ran the opening leg on the Augustana men’s national indoor championship distance medley relay team in 2012, and was fifth in the indoor mile at nationals in 2011.
Braun turned in a second-place finish in the junior men’s race at the 2012 North America, Central America and Caribbean cross country championships.He ran the 6,000-meter course in 18:54.02 and finished behind teammate Jake Lowry, who runs for Syracuse University.
Karbo was voted the NSIC men’s track & field athlete of the year for 2012. He was fourth in the steeplechase at the national meet and holds the school and all-time South Dakota collegiate record of 8:41.69.