116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Mount Mercy hosted the NAIA cross country national championships Friday at Seminole Valley with optimal conditions setting the background for a day of endurance running.
“I think this is perfect weather,” said Kelsi Huhndorf, a Marion grad and Mustang junior who finished 45th overall and scored 33rd place in the field of 326 women with a time of 18:41.69.
“It wasn’t too hot, it wasn’t cold and the wind was a little gusty,” Huhndorf said. “But if you don’t think about it, you don’t notice it.”
Emma Wilson of Huntington College (Ind.) took the individual title in 17:02.86, more than 31 seconds ahead of the pack while St. Francis (Ill.) earned the women’s team crown with four runners scoring in the top 23.
Huhndorf’s teammate and boyfriend, Mustang senior Cameron Steffens, was the top finisher for the Mount Mercy men’s team with a time of 27:30.23, good for 169th place.
Taylor (Ind.) led the way for the men with five of the top 22 runners, although Oklahoma City was dominant as well with Zouhair Talbi (23:45.15) winning the individual crown followed by teammate Shimales Abebe (24:05.47).
As a working nurse and student-athlete, Huhndorf has a full plate.
“I’m super busy with school and work and running,” Huhndorf said. “(Running is) definitely a good relaxing technique, I guess. Blow off some steam.”
Crowned Heart of America Conference champion in the fall, Huhndorf was excited to bring fans back to the cross country courses that felt lonely in 2020, especially with Cedar Rapids playing host.
“All of cross country season we couldn’t have spectators,” Huhndorf said. “Now we can have them here on our home course where we have the advantage and it definitely can make a difference.”
Huhndorf also appreciated having family members and her track coach from Marion in the background cheering.
“It can get pretty quiet without spectators and we had people lined up the whole course,” she said. “It pushes you along and keeps you motivated.”
The lifelong Linn County resident will finish up her final track season this spring before taking a break over the summer and then beginning her senior year of cross country and classes this fall before graduation in December.
“There is a time between seasons when they tell us to take a break,” Huhndorf said. “It’s hard for me to take time off from running. I realize during the day how important it is for my well-being because I really do love it.”
Other things she is looking forward to after her college competitions are over with is hanging out with her yellow lab River and practicing for a full marathon.
“I’ve run half marathons and done long run workouts, but I don’t want to do it during competing,” Huhndorf said. “It takes a lot out of you. After college I want to do more road races, settle into Cedar Rapids and save money to buy a house and start a family.”
Her plan is quite simple.
“My ultimate goal is to find a place I love and keep doing all that I love.”