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XC teams hit the ground running

credit Kevin Healy_St. Olaf Athletics

Photo courtesy of Kevin Healy.


Despite heat and class turnover, the men’s and women’s XC teams have set new standards of success on and off-campus. Both the women’s and men’s teams kicked-off the race season by winning by 6 and 34 points, respectively, at the St. Olaf Invite. Both teams have been ranked extremely high in the NCAA Division III Cross Country National Coaches’ Polls — a ranking of teams through pre and race seasons. The women are ranked No. 9 overall, and men are ranked No. 13. 


As a spectator, I have to ask, what’s motivating such success? Last year, the men’s and women’s team won the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) championship, and graduated two All-Americans. “Community was a huge factor of the success,” Wesley Sumner ’27 said.  


If you find yourself in the Natural Lands around 3 p.m., you’ll probably see the men’s and women’s teams running together. No one in the group has on headphones, nor is anyone looking down at the ground. The team-feel is ever present. In Stav Hall after their run, the energy can be felt throughout the whole table. “Every run is a bonding experience,” Sumner said. 


The success could also be the result of  a very low coach turnover. Erica Maker ’04, the women’s head coach, has been leading the team since 2018, meaning she has been the only St. Olaf coach all the women have had. This allows not only for community but success, which Maker has found lots of. Brian Power, the head coach of the men’s team, has been leading the Oles since 2016. 


Coming up is the Blugold Invitational in Colfax, Wis. “It’ll be a hard one, but we’re prepared and we’re ready,” Jonathan Pattie ’26, another runner on the team said.


The teams are confident about winning MIAC championships, hoping to set a new back-to-back record for the school.