Ellingson earns trip to Nationals

by Kate SimpsonStaff Writer

What wasn’t even a goal last year became a surprise accomplishment for junior cross country runner, Catie Ellingson, at the 2009 NCAA Regional Championships in Grinnell.

Ellingson never saw herself running at nationals, but after qualifying at regionals, last weekend she got the chance to run in Ohio in the NCAA National Championships.

Ellingson finished in 46th place at nationals with a time of 23:40.5.

Not only was this an accomplishment for Ellingson, but an accomplishment for the entire cross country program. She is the first national qualifier for Simpson College since 1991.

“It is a great accomplishment for someone to make it to the national championships and to make it as a junior is even tougher,” coach Brad Hofer said. “I am so happy for her and Simpson College to be represented well at the Championships and for her to go after All-American honors. It is a huge achievement for the entire team.”

But getting to this point wasn’t easy for Ellingson. This past summer she was in a car accident and was unable to start running again until July.

“I believe that after I got back to running I had a different mind-set toward skipping days and doing everything I needed to do to make up for the missed training in June,” Ellingson said.

Regardless of the setback, Ellingson still managed to make it to the prestigious meet despite not even thinking she had a chance.

“My father pointed out to me that the four girls that placed in front of me in the 1500 at outdoor nationals all placed in the top 35 from the national cross country meet,” Ellingson said. “I had never really thought of myself as a cross country runner. If these girls were putting a certain effort into cross country, maybe I needed to as well.”

While Ellingson never realized she could make it to nationals, Hofer had always had the goal for her.

“Catie has made progress each season that she has been on the team,” Hofer said. “She ran very well as a freshman and earned All-Region honors. I actually had that as a goal for her. I saw her progress in track last year and I was fully expecting her to move to another level this year in cross country.”

The national cross country meet took place Saturday, Nov. 21, and Ellingson was ready with a strategy.

“With almost 300 runners it will be important to get a good start to avoid being stuck behind too many runners,” Ellingson said. “After that I hope to simply compete as well as I can. Everything about it is exciting: the opportunity to run with some of the best runners in Division III, also, interacting with athletes that you compete against on a regular basis in a different environment. Its fun.”

“I think Catie did very well at her first nationals experience and we are all very proud of her performance,” senior cross country runner Tricia Davis said.

Ellingson’s success served as inspiration for the team.

“Eleven places off All-American honors is exciting and is motivation for next year,” senior Jess Christensen said.

Ellingson said she is looking forward to track season, but is also looking forward to a break from training every day.