NATIONAL CHAMPS! Viking Women Earn NCAA DII National Cross Country Championship
SPOKANE, Wash. - Augustana is the NCAA Division II women's cross country national champion. The Vikings earned the program's first national title and the school's second overall team national championship with their stellar performance Saturday in Spokane, Wash.
Augustana netted just 75 points on a snowy Plantes Ferry Athletic Complex course. The Vikings beat runner-up Western State (Colo.) by just four points.
The national title is the first for Augustana since 1991 when the softball team was the national champion.
The Viking men finished sixth with 210 points.
Welcome Home Ceremony
Leah Hanson led the Vikings Saturday, finishing 12th and running the 6,000-meter course in 21:40.40. Runa Falch finished directly behind her teammate in 21:42.40; Kristin Brondbo (21:47.90) and Kyle Blakeslee (21:53.30) rounded out this cluster of Augustana runners by finishing 15th and 18th, respectively. Kelly Kougl finished scoring by placing 29th in 22:08.4 0.
Said head coach Tracy Hellman: "We needed everyone to perform today, and we got exactly. It's an unbelievable and special feeling that's hard to put into words. We ran the perfect strategic race; we controlled the race. Augustana is on the map!"
All five of the Vikings scoring runners earned All-America honors.
Augustana was forced to deal with less-than-ideal weather conditions. Snowy and cold conditions persisted throughout the race — a factor Hellman said didn't come into play much for his Vikings.
"We were ready for any type of conditions" Hellman said. "We were so incredibly focused on what we needed to do."
"Nobody thought we could win ... we are on the best team in nation..."
Other Viking women's runners included Annie Pfiefle, who placed 46th in 22:34.60, and Maddy Jourgensen, who took 108th in 23:49.90.
An 11th-place finish by Paul Yak paced the men to their sixth-place finish. The effort tied the best national finish by the men in their program history; Augustana also gained identical honors a year ago.
Yak covered the 10,000-meter route in 31:33.50. He was followed by Ryan Evans, who placed 32nd in a time of 31:57.40. Yak and Evans each earned All-America status for the first time.
Tom Karbo finished 45th (32:14.80), Adam Bruan placed 68th (32:49.8 0) and Jordan Slusser came in 91st (33:21.30).
"We had exceptions outing by our men today," Hellman said. "I knew the guys were ready, and they executed a sound mental game plan.
"Yak ran out of his mind. He's becoming one of the nation's best runners. And Ryan Evans told me before the race he was going to be an All-American. He delivered on that."
The remaining Augustana runners were TJ Gleason (116th, 33:47.90) and Halvard Lange (123rd, 33:53.20).
The combined finishes by the women's and men's teams makes 2011 the most successful year in Augustana cross country history.
"This is going to catapult our programs to bigger things," Hellman said. "It's a special day we'll never forget, and nobody can ever take that away from us."