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Former Charles City runner finds success at Wartburg

Former Charles City runner finds success at Wartburg

Feller places 9th, earns all-conference honors at ICC meet

It’s been an uphill grind for CC alumna Gillian Feller this cross country season, but one which has acquired success and achievement for the junior at Wartburg College.

While the season still hasn’t ended — the regional meet at Central College is this Saturday — Feller’s season has been an interesting story, much like that of the team’s.

In a rebuilding year, as Feller put it, she saw an opportunity to step up, put in the miles and contend for a scoring position on the varsity squad for the Knights.

“Wartburg has traditionally been a very successful team,” Feller said. “But this year has been sort of a rebuilding year. So, I stepped up and wanted to try for a spot on varsity.”

On Oct. 3, the Knights held their home invitational, a meet Feller did not run in. Sidelined, head coach Steve Johnson said Feller made the mental switch that has since put her at the front of the Wartburg pack, contending to be a frontrunner in future meets.

“She didn’t run in our home meet, and when she was on the sideline, that’s when she realized we have a lot of good talent, but no one is stepping up and leading them,” Johnson said. “That’s when I think she said, ‘Hey, I can really do this.’” From that point on, Feller went from being the Knights’ No. 6 runner to being the No. 2 runner.

Like any athlete, Feller trained with runners who were better and faster than her, which made her better and faster herself. Less than two months after the season began, Feller finished ninth overall at the Iowa Central Conference meet and just one second off of the No. 1 runner for Warburg.

“It was kind of a crappy day for a race; windy and cold,” Feller said. “But it was awesome. It felt nice to accomplish something that I’ve been working hard for.”

Since her freshman year, Feller has shaved off two minutes off her 6K time. For a wait time at the DMV, that’s only milliseconds. But for a cross country runner, taking off two minutes is nearly an eternity.

Feller has her eyes set on becoming an all-region runner at Central College this weekend. Not out of her reach, Johnson said she has a great chance at achieving that goal.

“She’s a wonderful person; mild-mannered and not all that excitable,” Johnson said. “But she thinks about everything. She’s matured greatly, both in her mind and her body.

“She’s stronger, and that’s what has put her in the top two for us.”

While Feller has enjoyed the success of rising through the ranks, she knows there’s still plenty of work to be done. With the regional meet at Central College in Pella on Saturday, the course is inviting to only those who accept the gritty challenge.

“For some of the outsiders, we’re not favored (to qualify for nationals),” Feller said. “But we’ve definitely got the talent to do it. So from where we’re at, we think we can. It’s a hilly course with rough terrain. So we’ll see who’s ready for that challenge.”

It will be the 17th-straight appearance for the Knights if they can find themselves in the top four teams at the regional meet this weekend. Luckily for Wartburg, Johnson said he group of runners have a great chance of qualifying behind the legs of runners like Feller.

Jaclyn Rittgers, a junior, came in just a second ahead of Feller at the conference meet in Dubuque two weeks ago.

“People have kind of counted us out, which I love,” Johnson said. “Because, by the end of the season, we’re beating a lot of those teams who were glad we graduated so many of our top runners. But we’ve got these girls who are becoming frontrunners, not quite the ones finishing in the top 10, but ones who can finish in that top 30.”

The regional meet at Central College will start at 11 a.m.

GILLIAN FELLER’S 2015 RESULTS

Linfield College Harrier Classic (5K race), Sept. 9: 14th overall, 6th on Wartburg’s team, 16:39.5 Les Duke Invitational, Sept. 12: 27th overall, 6th on Wartburg’s team, 23:56.7 Augustana Invitational, Sept.25: 93rd overall, 6th on Wartburg’s team, 24:23.5 UW Oshkosh Invitational, Oct. 17: 109th overall, 3rd on Wartburg’s team, 23:11 Iowa Conference Championship, Oct. 31: 9th overall, 2nd on Wartburg’s team, 24:01 Central Region Championship at Central College, Nov. 14 National Championships in Oshkosh, Wi, Nov. 21

By Stephen Koenigsfeld [email protected]

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