Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Men’s cross country gears up for home invitational

Mitchell Johnson (18) runs a corner at Luther Colleges course last week.
Mitchell Johnson (’18) runs a corner at Luther College’s course last week.

After a promising start to the season with a first place finish at the WIU Early Bird Invitational, the Augustana men’s cross country team followed up with another strong performance at the Luther All-American Invitational on Saturday.
The Vikings scored 53 points and finished second out of six teams, only trailing to St. John’s and placing ahead of the Luther Alumni, Luther, St. Ambrose, and Clarke.
“Overall, we saw some great performances,” senior captain Mitchel Johnson said. “We put four guys in the top-15, led by a second place finish from Brandon Wilkerson.  From top to bottom, we had smart races and the guys stepped up to the challenge of a difficult course.”
Augie entered the season ranked sixth in the NCAA Division III’s Midwest Region according to the United States Track & Field/Cross Country Coaches Association poll. Despite several key injuries, the Vikings have lived up to expectations in the early portion of the season.
However, there are still three meets before the CCIW Championships, and Johnson knows his team needs to keep a strong focus.
“If each guy on this team continues to put in the work in practice and takes care of their bodies outside of practice, I think we can be the surprise of the Midwest Region,” said Johnson. “I also expect to see a lot of pack running this year.  Our strength is going to come from working together to reach times we would never have thought we could run alone.”
The next opportunity for the Vikings to showcase their skills will be on September 22, as Augustana will play host to the Brissman-Lundeen Invitational.
This event, which will have as many as 80 teams and 1,000 runners, is named after Leroy Brissman and Vince Lundeen, who are viewed as the founding fathers of cross country at Augustana College.
Augustana men’s cross country and track coach, Paul Olsen, is eager to get the event under way and see how his squad stacks up against some of the best programs in the country.
“In every meet we run, our goal is always to be in the hunt for a top spot,” Olsen said. “We have to be aggressive enough to be running with the best runners, but also be savvy enough to not go overboard that first mile and fall behind at the end.”
Although each meet has its own value, Olsen did admit that the home meet holds a special significance.
“The bigger the meet, the closer we get to the end of the year, which is the championship season with conference, regionals, and nationals,” said Olsen. “We want to use it as an opportunity to gain experience, build confidence, and prepare ourselves for a run at the end of the year.”
After the Brissman-Lundeen Invitational, the Vikings will participate in the Olivet Nazarene Invitational and UW-Oshkosh Invitational before the CCIW Championships, which take place on October 28 in Winneconne, Wisconsin.

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Men’s cross country gears up for home invitational