Brady Boie – Staff Writer
Despite being less than a month into the season, the Gustavus cross country team is already hitting its stride and showing signs of promise and major improvement. For proof, look no further than senior men’s runner Andrew Stumbo. Stumbo, an Iowa native, won the St. Olaf Invitational last weekend with a blazing time of 25:26.5. This time placed was the 12th fastest 8-kilometer time in program history and guided the Gusties to a fourth-place finish in a loaded 15 team field.
“St. Olaf was a lot of fun. 8 kilometers is the standard race distance for cross country, and this was the first one of the season, so it felt really good to be doing true ‘cross country’ things again… we treated the first half (of the race) like a workout, not going 100% so that we could really hammer the second half, and that’s exactly what happened,” Stumbo said.
As one would expect, Stumbo was thrilled with his performance and happy with where he stood in regards to his competition in the MIAC.
“I had a lot of fun with it. I’ve found that the longer the distance, the better I tend to run, so finally getting to race the full distance was really to my benefit. Most of the heavy-hitters in the MIAC were there, so if I can beat them while only truly racing the second half, it bodes well for conference,” Stumbo said.
Success like the kind that Stumbo enjoyed at St. Olaf doesn’t happen by mere chance. It takes intense dedication, preparation, and planning. Stumbo had a very particular game plan headed into the invitational and saw it as an opportunity to prepare for conference championships.
“The key in this race was to stay relaxed. It’s really easy with the adrenaline of a race to get out of the gate way too hot and burn yourself out, so the key with this one was to not do that. St. Olaf is hosting conference championships, and we wanted to make sure we knew what it felt like to really hammer the second half of the race so that we can do it in six weeks,” Stumbo said.
Stumbo’s performance and his strong sense of confidence bode well for his chances at conference championships. He plans on winning the conference with a sub-25 minute 8-kilometer time and heading to nationals with All-American aspirations. But his goals and confidence extend beyond himself to the cross-country team as a whole.
“We’re going to win conference as a team and take the whole crew of us to Louisville, Kentucky for the nationals race,” Stumbo said.
Stumbo may be on to something here. The Gusties have a deep, talented, and improving roster. This was on full display at the Carleton Running of the Cows meet this last weekend. In a meet where most of the upperclassmen did not participate, the Gustie underclassmen showed up and made great improvements.
“The team performed extremely well, even without many of the upperclassmen competing. We expected to see improvement from our last meet, but we ended up performing even better than expected. The girls averaged 43 seconds of improvement, and the guys averaged 37 seconds of improvement,” First-year Tyler Smith said.
Smith, new to the team, was the highest placing Gustie at the meet. He finished in 12th place with a personal record time of 27:29.9. This was a thirty-second improvement from a week ago.
“I performed better than expected. The course was fast and the conditions were good… I was happy with how it went for me, ‘’ Smith said.
On the women’s side, junior Julia Severson led the Gustie pack. She finished her 6-kilometer race with a time of 23:42.27. This time was enough to win ninth place at the meet and a personal record.
“I was really happy with my performance, especially because I was sick with a cold. I definitely know my cold impacted my performance a bit since it made me feel a bit more tired than usual, but this just makes me really excited to see what I can do when I’m not sick. I was also really happy with the race because my previous races this season did not go well for me,” Severson said.
These breakthrough performances for Severson, Smith, and Stumbo are emblematic of the growing confidence and strength of the Gustie cross country program. With this positive momentum building so early in the season, it will be exciting to see how far the Gustie runners’ legs will take them.