Senior Spotlight: Gustie Runner Birgen Nelson

Parker BurmanStaff Writer

Birgen Nelson has been a vital member of the Gustavus Track and Field team for the last three years. In just three short years she has created a legacy that will continue to last for years to come. Her impact has not solely been in the field of competition, but also wide-reaching across the Gustavus community and campus.

In her time as a Gustie, she has set five individual indoor track records in addition to a team record in the 4×400 meter relay. In outdoor competitions, she has a pair of individual and a pair of team school records as well. In addition to her school records, she holds three NCAA Dlll records, two of which are individual records. These are in the 60-meter indoor hurdles, 100-meter outdoor hurdles, and a sprint medley with current Gusties, Sophomores Makenna Huetten and Kate Carlson. She even broke her own NCAA Dlll record earlier this year in the 60-meter hurdles, setting another national record.

Her inspiration and motivation for her accomplishments on and off the track all come back to her mentality of excellence. “I am inspired by a need to excel. I have a big vision of what I think I can accomplish, so I work hard to bring that vision to reality. I am surrounded by people that believe in me and that is inspiring knowing that other people have faith in me, as well,” said Nelson. 

Nelson is a Classical Languages and Political Science double major with a minor in Environmental studies. After graduating Birgen will head out east where she will attend Duke University in pursuit of a Master’s degree in Public Policy. Her track days will not end at Gustavus but will continue on as a Duke Blue Devil on the Dl stage. A hope of hers is to stay involved in athletics, potentially considering coaching and working with athletes as a career option in the future.

After graduation, I will attend Duke University to earn a Master of Public Policy and continue running track. I would definitely consider coaching as a future career. I would like to work with athletes in some capacity. This could come from a public policy approach, meaning I could advocate on behalf of athletes, or from coaching,” Nelson said.

Nelson is a strong leader on and off the field and is highly respected by her teammates and the Gustavus community around her. “It means a lot to me that my teammates respect me enough to put me in a leadership position. We all know what we are capable of as a team and what we want to achieve, so it is an honor to lead us in that direction,” Nelson said.

The legacy that she will leave behind as one of the greatest Gustavus athletes is one that she does not take lightly. “I hope that in the future I can stand out to people as a reason to believe in themselves. When I was younger I saw all these great athletes and I wondered how they did it. Sometimes, a legacy can start with believing ‘Why can’t it be me that succeeds?’” Nelson said. 

A favorite memory of Birgen’s in her time at Gustavus happened last year as a member of the 4×400 meter relay where she ran as the team’s anchor. This event took place at the Outdoor Conference Championships last year and is something that will always stick with her. “My favorite memory at Gustavus was anchoring the 4×400 meter relay to get the win at the Outdoor Conference last year. Hearing my teammates cheer for me was so amazing! I am surrounded by the best people and this memory is always a great reminder of that,” Nelson said.

There are still things that Birgen wishes to accomplish before her time as a Gustie comes to an end in a few short months. She still seeks to claim another national title and to break as many records as she still can, and that her impact on Student Senate will continue. “By the time I leave Gustavus, I hope to have won another National title. I would really like to get the national record in the 100H, as well. I hope that after I leave Gustavus, Student Senate will continue the work that Delaney, my Co-President, and I have started,” Nelson said.

While her time on campus is rapidly coming to an end she will always be remembered as a Gustie. “My time as an athlete has proven to me that I can achieve what I set out to do. On a personal note, my friendships at Gustavus have been life-changing, as well. My friends, teammates, and coaches have all taught me valuable life lessons that have all made me a better person. My goal every day is to improve: to run faster, to be a better person, friend, teammate, student, and to listen to new ideas and people each and every day,” Nelson said.