JOPLIN, Mo. – Augustana’s men and women swept the Central Region championship on Saturday, with both teams placing their top five individual runners 12th or higher. This marks the first region title for the defending national champion women’s team and the second for the men. Augustana’s men last won the region title in 1991.
The Viking men, ranked fifth in the country, finished with 31 team points while the women, ranked first in the nation, finished with 28 team points. With the team titles, both squads qualify for the national tournament on Nov. 17 in Joplin, Mo.
Head coach Tracy Hellman described the victories as a tremendous accomplishment for both programs.
The men’s team has qualified for the national tournament 16 consecutive seasons, and for the 35th time in school history. The women’s team qualified for the 13th consecutive season and 26th time in school history.
Travis Beniak was the men’s individual champion finishing with a time of 29:57.
“It was great to see Travis step up and race his best performance of the season,” Hellman said. “The great thing about our men was our 42-second spread from runners one through five. If we can have that same performance, we should be in great position for our best finish [at nationals].”
Runa Falch earned the women’s individual title with a time of 20:39.
“I felt the strongest that I have felt all season,” Falch said. “The team chemistry is awesome and we are working so hard together. Now as a team, we turn our attention to the national race in two weeks.”
The Viking men had five runners finish in the top 11 of the men’s 10,000-meter run. Adam Braun finished second with a time of 30:10. Paul Yak delivered a seventh-place finish, crossing the line in 30:33.
Nathan Hauge finished 10th with a time of 30:35 followed by Harald Karbo who finished 11th with a time of 30:39. TJ Gleason (30:50) and Ryan Evans (31:21) finished 18th and 38th respectively.
On the women’s side, Leah Black crossed the finish line in second place with a time of 20:49, just 10 seconds behind teammate and champion Falch. Kristin Brondbo finished fifth overall with a final time of 21:09 followed by Kyle Blakeslee who picked up a 10th-place finish at 21:39. Annie Pfeifle was just two spots behind and finished 12th with a time of 21:49.
“I thought, team-wise, it was a dominating effort,” Hellman said. “But we still have room for improvement. We know that we need to perform our best in two weeks and I know both teams will be ready.”
The top four men’s teams and the top five women’s teams qualified for the national tournament, along with the top three individuals that are not a part of a qualifying team.