The Augustana Cross Country Running Team was brilliant at the CCAA National Championship Races. The men burst back onto the national stage to win their third championship in five years. The women claimed silver to complement their championship victories in the previous two years. This is the first double medal performance for Augustana at the championships.
Grande Prairie Regional College hosted the women’s 5 km and men’s 8 km races on a beautiful and hilly snow-covered course. Adding to the drama of the highest quality field of runners in championship history was an intense snow storm that started near the end of the women’s race and continued to the men’s start, subsiding somewhat as the race went on.
Every one of the Viking men had to come up with their best race to squeeze out a one point victory over Quebec champions College Ahuntsic and hold off Ontario champions Fanshawe College and prohibitive pre-race favorite Lethbridge College. David Arial ran the race of his life to finish 10th (28:24). He worked his way through 25 runners over the course of the race, outsprinting a Quebec runner in the final meters to gain one more crucial point. David Ball, in the last race of his outstanding Augustana career, showed tremendous courage in the last 800 m of the race. At the back of a group of five runners, David dug deeply to increase his pace one more notch to work his way to the front. He hung on to finish 13th (28:43), edging an Ahuntsic runner by three seconds. This was the two point swing that was instrumental to the Augustana win. Nils Lokken (27th – 30:06), Philip Eriksson (28th – 30:13), and Sam Lindsey (29th – 30:20) joined up early in the race and worked together in wonderful fashion to pass many runners over the course of the race and displace the third place runners of every team except Ahuntsic. Underscoring how much this was a team win, Augustana sixth Kendall Warawa (44th – 31:36) finished one position ahead of the Ahuntsic fourth runner, sealing the victory. In the end, no team could match Augustana’s depth, which was rounded out by season-best runs by Ryan Webber, Matthew Pate, and Noel Ives.
The Augustana women finished nine points ahead of Quebec champions Ahuntsic and were only fourteen points behind the very strong ACAC champion Red Deer College team. With the loss of a majority of the outstanding runners who have won the last two national championships, this result would not have been expected at the year’s outset, and is a testament to the commitment and improvement of a new group of runners. Leading Augustana to culminate an outstanding season was Kathryn Stone (9th – 20:56). Kathryn put herself in a position to challenge the race leaders and came very close to breaking into that elite group. In the last race of her distinguished Augustana career, Julianna Nusse ran a tremendous race and personal best (11th – 21:19). Patricia Leighton ran a brave race on an injured leg to get a crucial result (28th – 22:35) for the Vikings. Robin Braconnier (30th – 22:50) and Tamara Taerum (31st – 22:52) ran close behind to seal the silver and to finish off a season in which they have run so well to fill the gap left by last year’s departures. Again emphasizing the depth of the Augustana team was Becky Scholten (51st – 25:19) who was the top sixth runner of any team.
Kathryn and Patricia also won gold medals as part of the ACAC Conference Team that finished ahead of their Quebec and Ontario counterparts. On the men’s side, David Ball and David Arial were part of the men’s ACAC conference team that was third.
Augustana is the most decorated school in CCAA Cross Country Running, with five team championships in the last five years. It is a marvelous feat for probably the smallest school competing at the championships. The 2007 Vikings join a group of runners whose dedication, talent, and heart have made Augustana proud.