UWS Runner Beats Odds

Jason Lindelof’s two-story Duluth home was considered a total loss in an August fire started by a toaster. The Wisconsin-Superior student from Woodbury, Minn., had to live in hotel rooms for three weeks and, more recently, has rented a room in Lakeside.

While going to school, Lindelof also works 30 to 40 hours on weekends as a delivery driver for Beijing Restaurant on East Superior Street to help with mortgage payments while insurance claims are sorted out.

Lindelof, 25, won’t have much of a paycheck this weekend, however, because he’s entered in the Division III cross country championships Saturday in Cleveland. His road to the NCAA finals is as eventful as his life away from running.

“I went from not running for 15 months, to running the best race of my life. That doesn’t happen. It’s crazy,” Lindelof, an exercise science major, said Monday.

Here’s his story:

As a UWS freshman he didn’t finish the cross country season because of an Illiotibial band leg injury; at the end of his sophomore season he suffered a heel bruise; and while running with the UWS track team early in 2008, he fell and tore ligaments in fracturing his left foot. He received differing medical opinions on healing the foot and settled on getting orthotics, specially fitted shoe insoles. After missing the 2008 cross country season, Lindelof got back to running in July, but put in too many miles too quickly and suffered an Achilles injury.

At UWS this fall, as a junior by eligibility, he’s stayed in one piece while keeping expectations minimal.

“I essentially had nothing more than one month of running this summer. I was hopeful this season, but realistically, all I wanted was just to stay healthy,” said Lindelof, 16th in the 2001 Minnesota Class AA boys cross country meet as a Woodbury senior.

UWS coach Paul Nisius started him slowly, keeping him out of the season’s first meet, and entering three races total. He began as the team’s No. 3 runner. In the postseason, at the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, meet Oct. 31 in Whitewater, Wis., Lindelof was 18th among 99 runners in 26 minutes, 19 seconds for eight kilometers, as the No. 1 UWS finisher, good for honorable mention in the league.

Last Saturday, at the Division III Midwest Regional in Winneconne, Wis., he was considerably faster, placing 13th among 282 runners, sixth among WIAC entrants, in 24:51 to qualify for the NCAA meet. Lindelof felt so good during the race, he gave Nisius a thumbs-up sign part way through the run.

“The only advice I had when practice started was that he should be thankful he was running again,” Nisius said. “I said, ‘Maybe by next year you can get back to where you were.’ But he kept getting stronger and stronger, and we kept increasing his workouts, and he was happy and enjoying any improvement that was made.

“You could see he was getting better, but as far as getting to the NCAA meet, I told him his chances were very, very slim.”

Lindelof is the first UWS runner to make the Division III finals since Matt Kramer in 2005 and is believed to be only the fourth runner in program history to advance, said Nisius.

UMD, St. Scholastica also represented

The Minnesota Duluth women’s team, led by sophomore All-American Morgan Place of Ellsworth, Wis., is entered in Saturday’s NCAA Division II meet in Evansville, Ind. The Bulldogs, qualifiers for a second straight year, placed eighth in 2008, while Place was seventh individually.

St. Scholastica senior Katelyn Meger of Webster, Minn., is running in the Division III women’s race for a second straight year. Last week, she was ninth among 183 runners in the NCAA Central Regional in Grinnell, Iowa.

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