The absence of fall sports for the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) has left coaches, athletes, and Division III fans heavy hearted. In times of uncertainty, retrospection serves as an outlet for inspiration and gratitude for all. For athletes who are tired of looking forward to the precariousness of our world, reflection upon past successes provides motivation and encouragement. It is with this in mind that we look back in time to St. Olaf’s first National Championship: the 2013 Men’s Cross Country team’s flawless season. Led by legendary coach Phil Lundin, the Oles won the Conference Championship, the Region Meet and the National Championship.
Head Coach Phil Lundin is no stranger to success. Coming to St. Olaf five years prior in 2008, he left the University of Minnesota with numerous honors. With the Golden Gophers, Lundin was a four-time Big Ten Coach of the Year, one-time NCAA Coach of the Year and had eight top-two conference finishes in 13 years as head coach. It was with this experience, and a Ph.D in Biomechanics, that Lundin successfully applied his knowledge and leadership for a national title.
The squad was led by two-time MIAC champion Grant Wintheiser ’15 who finished third among runners with a time of 24:34.8, but Grant wasn’t the only one who showed up prepared for success. Jake Brown ’15 finished in fourth (25:00.0), Brian Saksa ’14 was 11 (25:07), Jake Campbell ’16 was 21 (25:19.7), Calvin Lehn ’16 was 46t(25:41.2) and Phillip Meyer ’15 was 50 (25:45.6).
The team edged out defending national champions North Central (Ill.) by just two points with a team score of 84. These two teams were well ahead of the rest of the competition, with third place UW-La Crosse coming in at 156.
The success of the 2013 squad has had a meaningful impact for Ole athletes. The team also set an example for what it means to be a runner at St. Olaf, what the current team calls “The Big O.” Current Captain Mike Finn ’20 describes the 2013 team’s impact on the team today.
“The team winning the 2013 title has seriously impacted my time here. Our team carries some swagger and cockiness to this day because of that. We pride ourselves in the work we put in, and we aim to return to that level of performance. It is the expectation that every member puts in the work necessary to be a national caliber team every year, regardless of who is on the team and where we end up finishing,” Finn said.
Appreciating what once was allows us to look forward to what can be. The 2013 team continues to serve as an inspiration for the Cross Country teams, and all Ole athletes. While the team hasn’t achieved a National Championship since then, they’ve continued to hold a national presence and attain Conference Championships and multiple NCAA appearances, including many individual successes. Coach Phil Lundin retired after the 2019 Cross Country season, leaving the position to Brian Power.