Augsburg Cross Country is “Leveling Up”

Angie Leno, contributor

Photograph of Augsburg mens and womens cross country teams, taken by Kevin Healy at Media Day on Aug. 25 

The 2021 season marked the first season for Nick Larson as head coach of the Augsburg Mens and Women’s cross country teams. At the beginning of each season under Coach Larson, the team comes up with a theme for the season. During his first season, the theme was “progress, not outcome” where the main focus for runners was technique and personal progression rather than race results. Last year, the theme was “chase lions,” pulled from a book by Mark Batterson called “In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day.” It was meant to inspire runners to set big goals (lions) for themselves that may push them out of their comfort zones. The idea being that if runners truly believe in themselves and chase their goals, they’ll be in positions to do special things. 

This year, the theme is “level up,” coming from sophomore Henry Nelson of the Mens team who was in a major car accident in May. During the summer, Nelson had to relearn how to walk. Through hard work and determination, he was able to start running again. Nelson was interviewed by KARE11 in August, and during the interview he compared the progressions of recovery to levels in a video game. With each stage of recovery he’d “level up.” After hearing Nelson describe his recovery, Coach Larson knew that had to be the theme for the season. Now, the Auggies have centered their attention on “leveling up.” Not only will they use this in practice and competition but in the classroom and other aspects of life. Each day is a new opportunity to better yourself and “level up.”

Photograph of Augsburg mens and women’s cross country teams, taken by Kevin Healy at Media Day on Aug. 25 

For the Women’s team, there are a few players already making an impact on their season. Senior Gracie Johnson is off to a running start, placing 13th out of 77 finishers in the first meet of the season at the UW-River Falls River Town Twilight 6k in Prescott, Wisconsin. With a time of 24:57.1, Johnson beat her first 6k time of the 2022 season (25:47.9) by nearly a minute. She also had a solid showing at the Carleton College Running of the Cows 6k, placing 68 out of 213 finishers with a time of 25:09.5. 

Another one to watch is first year Aleka London, the team’s only newcomer this year. London was the third quickest Auggie runner in the teams first two meets with times of 28:33.0 at the UW-River Falls River Town Twilight and a 27:58.0 personal record at the Carleton College Running of the Cows. 

For the Mens team, a runner the Auggie athletic community already has eyes on is sophomore Mohammed Bati. Bati took 3rd place out of 90 finishers and posted a time of 25:05.3 at the River Town Twilight 8k. He also secured an individual title at the Running of the Cows 8k with a time of 24:59.5. A newcomer to watch is sophomore Zinabu Engstrom who has been the 2nd quickest runner through the team’s first two meets. He has posted times of 27:15.1 at the River Town Twilight 8k and a 27:05.3 personal record at the Running of the Cows 8k.

Catch both of these teams at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Blugold Invitational on Sept. 29 where they will continue to “level up” their game to take on the final boss: the MIAC Championship.