SIOUX FALLS, S.D.- Paul Yak turned in another outstanding performance, winning the individual NCAA Central Region championships and leading Augustana to their second consecutive region team title on Saturday. Kristin Brondbo’s second straight runner-up finish of the season helped the Viking women to third place, securing a bid to the NCAA Championships.
Head coach Tracy Hellman said it’s a great feeling to have both teams qualify for the NCAA Championships which will be held in Spokane, Wash. on Nov. 23. The men will be making their fifth consecutive trip to the national meet and the women will compete at the NCAA Championships for the eighth straight year.
“I felt that both teams ran solid with focus and determination throughout [the entire race],” Hellman said. “We had some great performances but more importantly was our team victory. The team is always such a focal point of our program and today was a great example of that.”
Hellman, the 2012 Central Region coach of the year and leading candidate to repeat this season -- voting amongst region coaches takes place on Monday -- described the men’s performance as “totally dominating.” The men’s near 80-point winning margin personified domination in terms of cross country running. Augustana’s fifth runner finished in front of second place Central Missouri’s third scoring runner, ensuring a blowout with 37 total points for the host Vikings.
Once again, the Vikings implored a pack strategy which paid its dividends when they placed all seven runners in the top 24. Yak stayed back in the pack after eventual runner-up Laban Sialo broke away early, building a 100-meter lead. Yak’s patience was worth some lofty praise from his coach and rewarded in the end.
“[Yak’s] performance was one of the more dominating ones I have ever seen,” Hellman said. “To see him hanging in the back of our pack encouraging the guys, that was an example of a leader for our team. I didn't think he could make up that distance to 1st, but he is racing at another level right now. He is racing his best at exactly the right time.”
Yak’s final time of 31:13.99 on the 10k course was nearly 10 seconds better than Sialo’s mark. Tom Karbo showed again that he will not be out-kicked in the final stretch as the elder Karbo stayed on Pitt State’s Adam Volkert until the final 150 meters where he passed one of the meet favorites and finished in third at 31:26.88.
The pack of Vikings stayed together and crossed with Adam Braun taking 10th (32:02.49), Harald Karbo in 11th (32:03.35) and TJ Gleason passing two runners in the final 50 meters to finish 12th (32:11.39). Jordan Slusser and John Klecker join Augustana’s top five as All-Central Region performers by placing 19th and 24th, respectively.
The women’s fortune wouldn’t shake out quite like the men’s but the head coach knows there more than just winning every meet. “Our women have had some setbacks this year, but our focus has always been on the national meet and we are setting up well for a great team performance.”
Brondbo’s runner-up finish (20:45.12) earned high praise from Hellman as she looks for her fourth All-America honors in two weeks. “Kristin had another awesome performance and she is racing her best at this time of the year.” But Brondbo’s best wasn’t good enough as U-Mary’s Jennifer Agnew continued her magnificent season, winning by nearly 20 seconds.
With a strong women’s field that was paced by team champion Minnestoa Duluth, the women couldn’t repeat as champions, but still managed to punch their ticket to Spokane. Meritxell Delgado earned All-Central Region honors in her first season competing at Augustana with a 20th-place finish in 21:58.30.
Three-time All-American Runa Falch couldn’t hang with the leaders on the 6k course finishing 28th with a 22:06.35 time. Kaitlyn Yoerg was Augustana’s fourth finisher, 30th overall, with a time of 22:11.97. Freshman Cassidy Soli ensured the Vikings of another trip to the NCAA Championships, placing 36th overall in 22:27.84.
With just one more meet left, the Vikings return to a familiar place looking for another run at glory.
“Now we shift our focus to the national championships,” Hellman said. “If we can keep healthy and stay focused, we have the opportunity to create some more additional memories out in Spokane.”