“We’re going to Boston!”

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“We’re going to Boston!”

Dan Iselin (‘21) rounds a curve at the NCAA III mile preliminaries on Friday, March 8.

Dan Iselin (‘21) rounds a curve at the NCAA III mile preliminaries on Friday, March 8.

Photo courtesy of Luther Athletics

Dan Iselin (‘21) rounds a curve at the NCAA III mile preliminaries on Friday, March 8.

Photo courtesy of Luther Athletics

Photo courtesy of Luther Athletics

Dan Iselin (‘21) rounds a curve at the NCAA III mile preliminaries on Friday, March 8.

Martel DenHartog, Sports Editor

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Dan Iselin (‘21) approached his teammates at the unofficial cross-country table in the Caf with a wide smile. Iselin had just received word from Head Men’s Cross Country Coach Steve Pasche, that his mile time of 4:15.38, which he raced at a Wartburg Qualifier meet on March 2, qualified him for the NCAA DIII Men’s Indoor Track and Field National Championships in Boston.

On Friday, March 8, Iselin raced in the mile preliminaries at the national meet with a time of 4:14.07. This time broke an 18-year-old school record and earned him the 11th fastest time of the meet.

To Iselin, qualifying for the Nationals meet in the mile came as a surprise, as only the top 20 times in the country make it. Before traveling to the meet, he mentally prepared for the event.

“A month ago, [even] a week ago, I didn’t think I’d be in this position,” Iselin said. “Whatever happens [during the race], I’m just really excited to be there. Every race I’ve been in this season I’ve had the chance to be very competitive, so I’ll have the same mindset [at Nationals].”

Iselin’s racing has only gotten stronger during the 2019 track and field season, and battles with injuries have made his accomplishments even more remarkable, according to Pasche. While most distance men in the conference train 50-100-miles per week, Iselin runs around 20 due to these injuries.

Iselin’s teammate, Kyle Gilberg (‘19) is thrilled for him, especially considering his training trajectory.

“It was exciting to see [Iselin] race at Nationals because he’s had a lot of setbacks and challenges since he’s been at Luther,” Gilberg said. “He has persevered and put in a lot of work to get to the level he’s at now, and it’s cool to see that all that work is paying off.”

Photo courtesy of Luther Athletics
Dan Iselin (‘21) on the train in the NCAA III mile preliminaries on Friday, March 8.

Shorter mileage training plans due to injuries has not inhibited Iselin from racing against the best competition in DIII distance running.

Earlier in the season, Iselin ran a 4:22.15 mile, which “vaulted him to a whole other level,” noted Pasche. Since then, he ran 4:17.26 at the American Rivers Conference Championships and 4:15.38 at the Wartburg Qualifier. These times put Iselin in the ranks with notable Luther distance track alums Chris Shockey (‘94) and Rob Serres (‘82), Pasche mentioned at Iselin’s send-off on March 5.

“I think he’s very capable of going in there and mixing it up with the best of them [at Nationals],” Pasche said. “The context of his buildup is so remarkable, so I hope he’s savoring every moment out there and realizing how fortunate he is to be in this spot to be racing out there.”

The mile preliminary race was set for 5:20 p.m. EST Friday, March 8 with two heats of ten men each. The top three finishers from each heat plus the next four fastest times secured a ticket to the final heat on Saturday, March 9.

Iselin toed the line in the second heat of the prelims, where he started in lane one. He maintained the seventh position on the train for the majority of the race. Around two minutes and 25 seconds into the race, Iselin wound around the outside into the sixth position, but as the pack stretched out, he landed and finished seventh in the heat.

The winner of the second heat, Patrick Treacy of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire finished in 4:09.49, and Zach Lee of the University of Wisconsin-Platteville was the National Champion running 4:06.22 in the finals.

It has been seven years since a male track and field athlete has competed at Indoor Nationals and at least 14 years since any men’s distance runner has gone. Head Track and Field Coach Stephen Fleagle was excited about the energy that sending an athlete to Nationals creates for the rest of the team. The most recent track and field athlete the Norse have sent to Nationals was Tricia Serres (‘16), who raced the mile in 2016. 

“Because of the stretch of team that we have here, seniors are the only ones who may have seen somebody [go to Nationals],” Fleagle said. “Anytime there is an opportunity to see somebody go it creates an excitement for other people; it creates an interest. [Athletes might think], ‘What does it take to get there? How can I get there?’”

Gilberg also recognizes the motivation Iselin’s performance brings to the rest of the track team.

“Having a teammate run at nationals opens the door for others in a sense, [when] we see [Iselin], who we train with every day, running at the biggest stage, it opens our eyes to the possibilities for all of us to run our best later on this spring,” Gilberg said.

Iselin returned to Luther as excited as he was when he left for the meet. After racing at Nationals, he reflected on his experience.

“The race itself, in terms of tactics, and how it played out, wasn’t too different from other championship mile races I had been apart of this season, but the atmosphere was quite different,” Iselin said. “Not having teammates around was a little strange, but knowing the team was watching the livestream, and reading the letters they wrote me before was really comforting. The predominant feeling that I had before and after the race was a mix of gratitude to just be there but also a confidence that I earned my spot.”

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