Emma Esteb – Staff Writer
Seniors Birgen Nelson and Annika Poe become All-Americans once again. The duo traveled to Birmingham, Alabama for the NCAA Indoor Championships. “It was a super great facility, I was super excited to be there. We don’t really get to run on tracks like that very often so it was really awesome to be on a big track of that caliber. So, everyone ran super fast that weekend and it was a very cool atmosphere,” Nelson said.
Nelson started off on Friday where she won the prelims for the 60-meter hurdles with a time of 8.48. “Honestly my mindset was just to survive and advance. Do what I need to do to get through to that final round and then just execute what I know how to do when it comes time to the final,” Nelson said. With a solid win under her belt, she came back on Saturday for the 60-meter hurdle finals. She claimed her second career national championship title with a meet record time of 8.39. Nelson also won the 100-meter hurdles last spring at the 2022 National Outdoor Championships in Geneva, Ohio.
This win for Nelson was extra rewarding as the last few years were tarnished by COVID and injury. “Last year at indoor nationals, I was seeded second and I ended up taking seventh. So it was really awesome to go out and run like I know I can do. It felt like a bit of redemption so I was very happy and very proud of myself. It was a very sweet victory. My first nationals was canceled because of COVID while I was at the meet. The next one was canceled the week before due to not enough teams participating and the one after I had a nerve injury. It was just really awesome that my senior year I could get it done,” Nelson said.
Senior Annika Poe also earned her second All-American honor as she took sixth in the shot put. Poe threw a 46-3.5 on her second throw, securing a spot in the finals. She used her final three throws to her advantage and recorded a distance of 46-4.25 on her fifth throw and ended with an impressive 47-8 on her final throw. “My mindset going into the meet is to always just have fun. I never really get nervous, I just focus on having fun and competing to the best of my ability. I have already put in the work to make it to the meet so why be stressed about it,” Poe said.
Poe is only the second Gustie to earn two indoor All-American honors in the shot put. Her growth over her years at Gustavus does not go unnoticed, and her continuous hard work has earned her four national appearances.
The two seniors have had phenomenal seasons and careers within Gustavus Track and Field. Nelson is a six-time All-American in the 60-meter hurdles, 100-meter hurdles, and 400-meter hurdles. She now has two national championship titles in the 60 and 100-meter hurdles along with a runner-up title in the 400-meter hurdles. She was the 2022 North Region Track Athlete of the Year, 2022 Outdoor MIAC Athlete of the Meet, and 2022 Outdoor MIAC performance of the Meet. Poe is a two-time All-American in the shot put and is also an Academic All-American. “I felt so amazing after my throws. At this point last year I was eighth place and throwing three feet less compared to this year. So seeing my growth was a win in itself,” Poe said.
The two seniors are looking forward to their spring outdoor season as they finish their time at Gustavus. “I’m really excited to run the 100 hurdles. I like the 100 hurdles way more than the 60 hurdles so I’m really excited for that. I am also excited to do my other event, the 400 hurdles. I’m just excited to end my time at Gustavus on a high note,” Nelson said. Her success has arisen from her dedication to the sport. “I really think this year was an accumulation of years of hard work so it’s been really rewarding seeing that progression. I also had really focused on my diet and eating more protein and putting on more muscle so that was a huge thing for this year. I’ve really seen my time drop as I have made these changes. Also, my confidence has also just gone up. I’ve done tons of visualization work just for these moments and for racing all season,” Nelson said.
Poe is also really looking forward to the outdoor season, as well. “I am most excited to continue to get better not only at shot put but to start throwing discus again as well. Indoor track does not have discus so getting back into throwing disc is very exciting for me,” Poe said. Both seniors have bright futures ahead as they head into their final spring season as Gusties.