Most freshmen collegiate athletes don’t see much action in their first year.
But, that wasn’t the case for Maddy Jourgensen, a 2011 Moffat County High School graduate.
Jourgensen competed in her first season as a member of the Augustana College women’s cross-country team in South Dakota.
On Saturday, Jourgensen ran in the NCAA Division II women’s national championship cross-country race in Spokane, Wash., a meet in which her team finished first and was crowned national champions.
“Our coach ran up to us bawling and told us we won and all of us girls instantly started crying,” Jourgensen said. “We were all super excited and started hugging everyone around us.”
Jourgensen finished 108th out of 186 runners in the 6,000-meter race, clocking in at 23 minutes and 23.49.9 seconds.
On Nov. 5 in Denver, the Vikings took third as a team in the NCAA Division II Central Region Championships, finishing behind Western State College and Adams State College.
On Saturday, Augustana nudged Western State out of the lead by four points.
Jourgensen also improved her Central Region meet time — 24:50 — by more than a minute.
Getting a chance to compete on a national stage in her freshman year, Jourgensen said, was a great experience.
“When I began the year, it started a little rough and I felt tired,” she said. “I got to run as the only freshman in the top 7 on the team, and it felt great to win it all and do that with my team.”
Jourgensen said the first difference she noticed between high school and collegiate running was the pace and workload of practices and workouts.
“The practice regimen includes a lot more miles,” she said. “We do a lot of similar stuff that we did in high school, but it was higher volume and you had to go faster.
“It took awhile for me to get into the workouts, but I got more eager to do the work and I love my teammates and they made it fun to run.”
While high school competitions were on a 5,000-meter course, most of the Vikings’ meets were on 6,000-meter courses this season.
The difference, Jourgensen said, is less than a mile and she adjusted in stride.
“We have girls on the team from Minnesota who ran (4,000-meters) in high school, so it was harder for them,” she said. “I didn’t really notice the difference and just ran through until the end.”
The Augustana team this season included four freshmen.
Jourgensen said the team bonded after getting to know each other.
As for the first meet, the competition level was a big transition, she said, and not being in front like she was in high school was different.
“Most of my races, the girls were all packed up and I was in the middle of the pack,” she said. “The competition level is definitely going to be tougher in college and I expected to have to work to compete.”
In her junior season, Jourgensen said the national championship meet would be back in Spokane, so she will have the experience of that course if she qualifies again.
In the short term, the MCHS grad said she is going to take two weeks off before getting ready for indoor track in the winter and outdoor track in the spring.
“I really love running and I always looked forward to cross-country and track because it was my favorite time of the year,” she said. “There will be some highs and lows running year-round, but it will be exciting.”
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