Luther Cross Country sends two runners to nationals


Photo courtesy of Nicholas Shaleen

Kelly and Lindhorst both felt supported by their teammates.

On Nov. 23, Luther College sent two runners to compete in the Division III Cross Country National Championships in Louisville, KY. The runners were team captain Vera Lindhorst (‘20) and first year Ian Kelly (‘23).  Lindhorst placed 79th overall with a time of 22:41.2 in a six-kilometer race, and Kelly placed 137th overall with a time of 25:42.8 in an eight-kilometer race. When asked about how she felt with the race, Lindhorst said it was different than what she was expecting.

“I didn’t think the nationals race went as well for me as I would have liked,” Lindhorst said. “I didn’t know going into it exactly what to expect; they literally sprinted off that line. I was in dead last for a couple of minutes. I think in hindsight, the way that we do Luther races is patient start, and that’s just what I had in my mind going into it—patient start. At the same time if you patiently start and you are in last place, you have like 300 people to climb up through, and I just spent the whole race weaving in and out trying to get ahead.”

Kelly had similar feelings about the race, but still felt supported by the team.  

“It was okay, not great… I think I could have raced better,” Kelly said. “I think I went out a little too hard. But overall, I feel okay with it. I definitely have room to improve, and I am really looking forward to the years to come. My parents came out, and there were some supporters that came out, and the team was streaming the race back home and I knew that, so I went out and raced knowing that.”

Assistant Cross Country Coach Scott Mittman (‘14) was proud of the way Lindhorst and Kelly represented Luther, especially because of the deep field at the national meet.  Mittman believes that the lack of Luther runners surrounding them had an impact on the race.  

“The individuals we had represented the team really well,” Mittman said. “Ian and Vera were awesome representatives of men and women.  But on top of this new race for both of them, and the deeper field, they had to do it by themselves.  They aren’t surrounded by a team, and it’s hard, but I think they both did admirably.”

Lindhorst’s hometown is St. Cloud, Minnesota, and for all four years of her college career, she has run in the top seven runners for Luther. She is also a two-time conference Fall Sports All-Academic Team honoree. During this season, she placed first for Luther and fifth overall at the All-American Invitational, first for Luther and 15th overall at the Blugold Invitational in Eau- Claire Wisconsin, first for Luther and first overall at the Montana Western Open in Dillon, Montana, second for Luther and seventh overall at the American Rivers Conference Championships in Dubuque, Iowa, and first for Luther and eighth overall at the NCAA DIII Central Region Championships in Waverly, Iowa.  Her regional finish earned her a spot at the national championships.

Kelly hails from Heritage, Colorado, where he was a four-year letter winner in cross country. He was also the Continental League champion in cross country, where he ran in high school, and earned first team All-State honors. He helped lead the Heritage Eagles to a third-place finish at the Colorado 5A State Championships. During this season, he placed first for Luther and second place overall at the All-American Invitational, second for Luther and 21st overall at the Blugold Invitational, second for Luther and 24th overall at the Jim Drews/Tori Neubauer Invitational in La Crosse, WI, second for Luther and 10th overall at the American Rivers Conference Championships, and first for Luther and 17th overall at the NCAA DIII Central Region Championships, which earned him a spot to run at the national championships.

Despite having a disappointing final race, Lindhorst was happy with the way the season turned out for both her and the team.

“It was the best season I have ever had,” Lindhorst said. “This was kind of a breakthrough season for me, and I just did really well. I think I [got a personal record] every meet, except conference. I think my four years of training finally clicked. So for me it was just an awesome season, so exciting. I never went to state in high school, so to qualify for nationals my senior year and have that be the way that I finish out my collegiate running career is really cool.”

These races bring the cross country season to a close, and many of the athletes will begin training for the Indoor Track & Field season starting in the next few weeks. The first indoor Track & Field meet will take place on January 18, 2020 at the St. Mary’s Early Birdinal, hosted by St. Mary’s University in Winona, Minnesota.

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