With a taste of success at the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics' national cross country championship meet last fall, Kenai's Kristi Knudsen already has her sights set high for future success.
"If we make it back to nationals, I want to try to get All-American," Knudsen, a freshman runner at Black Hills State University in Spearfish, S.D., said during her holiday break.
Knudsen placed 67th overall at the meet at Kenosha, Wisc., on Nov. 18, while the NAIA Division II Yellow Jackets finished ninth as a team in the women's competition and second overall in the men's competition.
The top 30 finishers at the meet are named to the NAIA All-America team.
Knudsen said that conditions in Kenosha in mid-November played to the advantage of teams like the Yellow Jackets that trained in the northern reaches of the Lower 48.
"It was good for us," Knudsen said. "All the schools from Georgia and California didn't do as well."
Knudsen completed the 5-kilometer course in 19 minutes, 45 seconds, 1:03 off the winner's pace. That performance followed a 19:32 fifth-place finish at the Dakota Athletic Conference (DAC-10) championship on Nov. 4.
"My times are better than my high school times," Knudsen said. "There's been some good improvement."
Knudsen said that intercollegiate competition is more time-consuming than high school athletics.
"We have two practices a day," Knudsen said. "Everyone here is focused on running."
Knudsen said she had to roll out of bed for a 6:30 a.m. run -- no small feat for the typical college student -- and finished off the afternoon with another training session.
Black Hills State is a relatively small school with about 4,000 students. Knudsen said she learned of it through Casey and Cory Hershberger of Kenai, both students there.
Knudsen said she likes the small student body and the small cross country team.
"There's seven girls and 10 guys on the team," Knudsen said. "You get to know people better. Everyone on the team is close."
Knudsen will be tackling the distance events in indoor and outdoor track this semester, a new experience for her. She played basketball and soccer during the winter and spring at Kenai Central High School.
"I've never done track. I'm more of a cross country runner. It should be interesting," Knudsen said.
Knudsen has been taking some general classes in her first year of college. She currently has elementary education listed as a major, but added that she really hasn't made a final decision on anything just yet.
Knudsen said that she's been able to balance athletics and academics by being very conscious of her deadlines.
"I don't do things until the night before it's due, but I get everything done," Knudsen said. "With running taking up so much time, you have to be able to schedule around it."
Hakkinen takes 47th at World Cup
Kasilof biathlete Jay Hakkinen, 23, took 47th in a World Cup 10-kilometer sprint Jan. 18 in Antholz, Italy.
Hakkinen was the top U.S. finisher in the race. He recorded two prone shooting penalties, where he is generally more accurate, and was penalty-free standing up to finish 2:55 behind winner Ole Einar Bjoerndalen of Norway, who had one penalty.
Hakkinen and his U.S. teammates are currently training in Ridnaun, Italy, for the Biathlon World Championships in Pokljuka, Slovenia, in early February. The reason the team is training in Ridnaun is that is allows them to do training at elevation.
Hakkinen will then return to the United States for a pair of World Cup races. The races in Salt Lake City, Utah, from Feb. 26 to March 3, and Lake Placid, New York, from March 5 to 7, are the first time two World Cups have been held in the U.S. in the same year.
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