Running Against the Wind
Not long ago, AU senior Nathan Hauge’s future as a competitive runner was uncertain. He made a comeback thanks to a supportive coach and great teammates.
In the fall of 2015, Augustana senior Nathan Hauge’s future as a competitive runner literally hung in the balance.
“Even when I wasn’t running I would get dizzy spells,” he said. “I had headaches and trouble concentrating.”
While no culprit was found for the condition, medication brought it under control.
Hauge missed most of the 2015 men’s cross country season and didn’t resume running until May of 2016.
He applied for a medical redshirt, but there was no guarantee it would be granted. Augustana cross country has this thing about winning championships and Hauge wanted to be a contributor, not a spectator.
“There were times during the winter and spring when I thought about quitting,” he said. “But I felt if I didn’t try, it would be a bad way to end it. If you take a break from running it takes time to get back to where you were, so I started training in hopes of competing again.”
Summer workouts are part of Augustana head coach Tracy Hellman’s preparation for the fall season.
“We feel the off-season is important, yet we don’t put all our focus into it,” Hellman said. “I have come to understand the summer training period is necessary to get the body ready for the season.”
In August, a week before Augustana opened its team camp, Hauge learned his medical redshirt appeal had been approved by the NCAA. He was back in action and grateful for the opportunity.
Saying he has never felt better, Hauge put together his best season and helped the Vikings retain their dominance of conference and region competitions. He finished fourth as Augustana claimed its eighth straight Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference crown. He was the first Viking across the finish line behind teammate and individual champion Glen Ellingson.
Augustana hosted the Central Region Championship two weeks later and claimed the title for the fiftth straight year. Ellingson was third, Keegan Carda fourth, and Hauge 11th.
For his efforts, Hauge made the All-NSIC and All-Central Region teams.
“Nathan Hauge is a great example of how hard work and perseverance pays off,” said Hellman. “He wasn’t the highest recruited kid coming out of high school, but he ran some solid times and had some good potential. He has really improved since coming to Augustana and has been a great leader for our team. Even in the midst of setbacks, he has kept his belief that he can be successful and to see him come back this year from a year off, and arguably run his best season, that is very special to see as a coach.”
Experience and senior leadership are keys to this year’s team success.
“We have four fifth-year seniors on our team,” said Hellman. “Experience is something you can’t coach or develop; it’s a product of time. They are outstanding individuals who are great leaders. They have instilled in our program the necessary ingredients to be successful outside of practice. They lead a very healthy and focused lifestyle, and you can see the results in how the team has been performing. We also have great talent with this 2016 team, but the biggest takeaway for this year’s success has been the leadership and attitude of our upperclassmen.”
In his 16 years at Augustana, Hellman has built a formidable program. In 2011 he guided the women’s team to the national championship. The Vikings were runners-up in 2012. The 2016 men’s team was ranked No. 6 nationally heading to nationals.
“We are really proud of our program, our history and the current success we have had. I am very appreciative of everyone who has helped us get the program to the place it is today. We have had many great assistant coaches and administrators who have contributed to the many successes past and present. But, we are not satisfied, we are not content.”
This year Hellman was named conference men’s cross country coach of the year for the eighth consecutive year and Central Region men’s coach of the year for the fifth straight year. One of his top recruits, redshirt freshman Jesus Urtusuastegui from Sioux Falls, earned conference newcomer of the year distinction. Seven Vikings were named All-NSIC and four All-Central Region.
“Our program really talks about tradition. Tradition in what we have done and tradition in what we want to do,” said Hellman. “We have also tried to keep the connection with our past teams and our current team. Members of our past conference, regional, and national teams have stopped by during practice. They have reached out and communicated with our current group. We want our team to understand it doesn’t matter if you ran on the 2009 team or any of the other championship teams. The foundation is there and if one can continue to work hard and believe in the system success will follow.”
Athletic ability is only part of the equation.
“In our recruiting, we have found that the character of the person is the top priority,” Hellman said. “My thought is that our system will get them prepared and ready for the championship season that we peak for. But we need someone who has the mentality and focus that is necessary in a high level distance program. Obviously we look for good athletes and good students, but we really try to identify who would be great people to fi t into our program.” Hauge exceeded the criteria.
Editor’s Note: AU senior Nathan Hauge was the first AU runner to cross the finish line at the 2016 NCAA Division II national cross country championships in St. Leo, Florida. Hauge earned All-America honors with his 38th place finish. He completed the 10K course in 31:15.5. The Vikings finished 12th in the team standings.