MOORHEAD – The Cobber cross country men’s and women’s teams kicked off their season with the eighth annual Dragon Twilight Invitational on Friday, Sept. 8.
Twilight meets are unique because the runners race as the sun sets instead of in the afternoon. The women’s team started the meet with the sun barely peeking over the horizon; and the men finished in the dark, the only light from the Nemzek Stadium’s lights. The night beautiful, and the music loud as everyone enjoys the last bit of summer before the cold autumn nights.
Only the top five runners score in cross-country, and the scoring system is similar to that of golf. The person in first place receives one point, the second place two, and so forth. The team with the lowest overall score wins.
The women’s team started the night off with the start gun sounding at 7:30 p.m. Concordia raced nine women against 11 schools from various D2 to NAIA and NJCAA divisions. First-year Grace Ingebretsen was Concordia’s number-one runner of the night, running a 16:03.80 and finishing 37 overall. Ingebretsen started the night off slow, sitting comfortably behind in the fourth spot of her team, slowly but steadily making her way to be the lead runner.
“I waited for the 2k mark to hit and then I kicked it into gear,” Ingebretsen said. This was her first time running a collegiate meet.
Transitioning from high school to college for athletes is sometimes challenging, but Ingebretsen faces the adversity head-on.
“The runs and workouts have been definitely a lot longer than what I’m used to,” Ingebretsen said smiling. “But I really like the team I have this year.”
Tonight, Concordia’s top five runners were Amelia Rowley, who finished 38, right behind Ingebretsen. Then, Airial Johnson and Elsie Hatlevig at 43 and 44 and Londun Ames at 67, scoring the Cobbers 191 points, placing them 7th.
The men’s team started at 8:10 p.m. in the twilight and clocked impressive times as day turned to night. They placed 6th amongst 11 teams, only losing to one NAIA team, the rest of the schools were Division Two. Their top five runners of the night were Cole Nowacki, finishing 47; Carter Ferber in 39; Lucas Hinojos at 31; Tyler Gross at 16; and Tanner Olson running a 19:07.80 placing 12.
Olson started the Cobbers off strong, starting as the first runner for his team and finishing as the first runner. He went out guns-blazing and held on, making his experience as a fifth-year runner evident. He set a pace pushing the promising freshman, Tyler Gross, who was always within ten to forty yards behind him.
“It’s the first race so you don’t really know what to expect,” Olson said. “But I think it went well and I think a lot of other people raced well, Tyler especially.”
The men’s and women’s teams lost some of their best senior runners last year, placing pressure on the junior runners to step up and compete. Head Coach of both the men’s and women’s teams, Maddie Van Beek, has played a massive part in constructing the new teams. After the race, she had a smile glued to her face and went up to her runners, giving them advice and high fives.
Running a 4k or 6k is not a typical fun Friday night for most college students; inspiring athletes to run as fast and as hard as they can is challenging, and Van Beek has a non-traditional method of encouraging her runners.
“I try to give a lot of power to my team because it is so much more meaningful coming from teammates encouraging each other than coming from me; because it’s their team,.” Van Beek said.
Van Beek coaches but also runs competitively herself. Five days before the race, she raced a 20k and frequently races half and full marathons.
“A lot of times I remind them that I’m in it too. I tell them when I have a terrible race or a terrible workout. We’re all in it together,” Van Beek said
The Cobbers’ next meet is the Carleton Running of the Cows Invitational at the Bill Huyck Championship Course located at Carleton College.