By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2015 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
LOUISVILLE, KY (20-Nov) — This fall, North Dakota State’s Erin Teschuk has had a short, but flawless, cross country season: three wins in three starts without a serious challenge. She is probably the most rested athlete among the top contenders for Saturday’s NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships at E.P. “Tom” Sawyer State Park here, and that’s exactly how she and her coach Andrew Carlson had planned it.
Because the 21 year-old steeplechaser competed for Canada at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing last August (she took 10th in her heat in a personal best 9:40.07), she and Coach Carlson decided that she should ramp-up slowly in September and October to make sure she would be fresh and ready for Saturday’s race here. Carlson had only planned to race Teschuk, who is from Winnipeg, at the Summit League Cross Country Championships on October 31, then the NCAA Midwest Regional Championships on November 13. Indeed, she won both of those races handily, but she also won the Stanford Invitational in September 26, by seven seconds, literally by accident.
“We didn’t even plan to run at Stanford,” Carlson told Race Results Weekly in an interview here. “We were going to take her with us, but not run.” He added: “It was more about the trip.”
That Teschuk is now the reigning Canadian steeplechase champion, and that Carlson has coached her to this level is also mostly an accident. Teschuk was a mediocre 800m runner when she arrived at North Dakota State under previous coach Ryan Godfrey (she routinely ran over 2:15 in her first year at the school). But she showed promise in cross country, taking fifth at the Summit League Championships in 2013. That prompted Godfrey, who has since left the school, to eventually move her to the distance group under Carlson.
“In June of 2014, Ryan turned her over to my group,” Carlson recounted. “I came in and coached the 1500 and up.”
Carlson was also coaching Maddie McClellan (now Maddie Van Beek) in the steeplechase, and it “made sense,” he said, to coach Teschuk with her. By the fall of 2014, Teschuk was a completely different athlete, both on and off the field of play. The psychology major had completely dedicated herself to training.
“I think the 2014 cross country season was really the turning point for me,” Teschuk said, looking at her coach. “That’s when I first started working with Andrew. She continued: “Andrew was someone who inspired me to, like, get pumped up about running, and like really get into it, and kind of make other life decisions that would help.”
A year ago, Teschuk won the 2014 Summit League cross country title, and was only beaten by Courtney Frerichs in the NCAA Midwest Regional Championships. But at the NCAA Championships last year, she finished a disappointing 116th, lacking the confidence and mental preparation to race against women at the highest level of American collegiate running.
“Last year this time things were totally different,” Teschuk admitted. “Going into the season I had no idea I’d be at NCAA’s at all. That would have blown my mind.”
But this year, she sees the race from a totally different perspective: the front. Whereas last year an All-American (top-40) finish would have been a dream come true, this year she can see herself on the podium. Carlson said her naturally racing ability is a “ten out of ten,” and she now has the fitness and experience to run at the front with favorites like Dominique Scott of Arkansas, Molly Seidel of Notre Dame and Allie Ostrander of Boise State. Carlson also pointed out that Teschuk has a huge finishing kick.
“With a cross country race you never know how a race will go out or anything,” Teschuk intoned. “For me, I just want to be confident that whatever happens I can react to that. If the race goes out hard, I’m ready for that. If it goes out slow, I’m ready for that, too. Andrew always told me you can be in control of a race even if you’re not leading it.
She continued: “My main thing going into this race is that I want to feel like I’m in control the whole time, no matter who’s going where, when. I want to be in that front group and be ready to make a move whenever the time comes. I definitely trust my instincts.”
A woman from North Dakota State has never won at these championships. Teschuk would like to change that.
“I have as good a chance as anyone of winning the race,” she said soberly. “So, I just want to be in that kind of position.”
PHOTO: Coach Andrew Carlson and student-athlete Erin Teschuk of North Dakota State in advance of the 2015 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships in Louisville, Kentucky (photo by David Monti for Race Results Weekly)