When senior Cobber cross country runner Munir Isahak saw the finish line, he looked behind him to see if there was anyone close, but no one was there. With a time of 24:50.2, Isahak won the MIAC Championship Meet on Oct. 30 at St. Olaf, the first Cobber to accomplish this feat since 1991.
Isahak led the team to fifth place, just mere points away from being on the podium.
Three Cobbers ended up in the top 25, including sophomore Leo Smith and junior Tanner Olson, who were named All-Conference Honorable Mentions. Isahak became the first Concordia runner in 10 years to be named an All-Conference Award Winner and the first ever to be named MIAC Athlete of the Year.
Despite the regular nerves, the team was energized the day of the race. “We were really excited for the meet because it’s one of those meets that we really prepare for the whole season,” Isahak said.
Throughout the race, Isahak’s perseverance shone through. “The one thing that kept me going was just knowing that I could do it,” he said. Fixed on his goal, he came out strong and maintained his position.
“A lot of people assume that running is all speed, who can run the fastest, but if that were true, it would be the same winners every single time we race,” said Justin Kringler, senior Cobber cross country athlete. “If you tell yourself you’re going to fail, you’re going to fail. If you tell yourself good things are going to happen, good things are going to happen.”
As Isahak crossed the finish line in first place, he could not believe it: winning was one of his goals since beginning his career as a Cobber. “We knew Munir had it in him, we were just waiting to get to that point,” Kringler said.
According to senior runner Nolan Christenson, the team was right alongside to support Isahak.
“The energy was infectious. Nobody is more deserving of success than Munir, and I find his perseverance, patience, kindness and humbleness as a few of his many great qualities,” said Christenson.
Whether in a race or at practice, Isahak is setting a precedent for all Cobber athletes. Christenson said, “Munir always displays top-notch sportsmanship, whether it’s with his own teammates or the person he just beat at the finish line.”
“He represents what people should strive to be,” Kringler added.
At practice, Isahak’s leadership does not go unnoticed. “He’s the guy who everyone gravitates towards. He has that spark, that when you’re around him, it just kind of ignites you and hypes you up,” said Kringler. He not only runs to improve himself, but also to push each of his teammates. Christenson said, “It goes a long way to see the best distance runner on the team making sure that everyone is heard and involved.”
Another light on the team, Isahak notes, is coach Maddie Van Beek, who came to the team in the summer of 2021. “She’s really pushing the team to a new level. That can be seen throughout the season — everyone is improving,” Isahak said.
Many people may wonder, “Why run?” The enjoyment may not lie in the physical part of the sport as much as it does in the atmosphere. “It’s just running with your teammates, pushing each other, pushing yourself to limits you never thought you could beat,” says Kringler. “The unity is what makes it really fun.”
The team’s next race is the NCAA North Regional Meet on Nov. 13 in Colfax, WI. Isahak, while nervous for the race, said that the team is feeling good. “We’re in a really good position right now, and our training has been going really well. Everyone on the team is ready to go.”
Despite Isahak’s collegiate cross country career nearing its end, his love for the sport will not be fading any time soon.
“Running is one of those sports that once you start doing it, you will fall in love with it and you’ll probably want to do it for the rest of your life,” said Isahak. His leadership has made a great impact on the team, and he leaves young runners with this advice: “Keep running. You will improve, the time will come. Not every race is going to be your best race, but the day will come when you have your best races.”