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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, September 26, 2002

HPU's Christensen in cross country for the long run

By Brandon Masuoka
Advertiser Staff Writer

There are tough competitors and then there is Hawai'i Pacific University women's cross country runner Nina Christensen.

The junior from Frederikssund, Denmark, shrugged off the flu bug to win the women's individual championship in the University of Hawai'i's Big Wave Invitational Saturday at Kualoa Ranch. The collegiate meet was part of the Iolani Cross Country Invitational.

Christensen finished the hilly 3.1-mile course in 18 minutes, 41.9 seconds and survived challenges from the Rainbow Wahine's Victoria Chang and HPU teammate Sayuri Kusutani.

"Nina has been battling the flu for the past couple of weeks," said third-year coach Vien Schwinn. "Last week, she was out the whole week sick. Then she went out and beat everyone."

Christensen, 27, has established herself as one of the best collegiate cross country runners in Hawai'i, winning two out of three races this season and finishing a school-record sixth in the NCAA Division II National Championships at Slippery Rock, Pa., last season.

"She's very competitive and very strong," Schwinn said. "There's no reason why she can't be in the top three or first in the nationals."

Christensen's award-winning cross country career began out of persistence. Originally a track-and-field athlete in Denmark, Christensen said she turned to distance running as a teenager because the longer races offered better opportunities to compete.

"I started doing the long jump, shot put and discus," said Christensen, who is studying computers at HPU. "When I was 17, I started running longer distances. I started out with 400 meters and I found out that I wasn't that fast. So I had to run longer and longer."

Christensen arrived on the HPU campus in 1999 and has since qualified for two national championships and earned West Region Female Athlete of the Year honors last season.

To prepare this season, Christensen ran hard and long during the summer, logging 70 miles a week, but has since tapered off so she can be fresh and recover from the flu.

"I did my homework during the summer and the spring," Christensen said. "My big goal is not the races here, it's the nationals."

Schwinn called Christensen one of the most focused athletes she's ever coached.

"She doesn't do anything else but running," Schwinn said. "I don't think she even goes to the beach. She's trying to keep her focus, trying to keep it simple."

Schwinn said the HPU women's team and the men's team, led by senior Christian Madsen from Hillerod, Denmark, have a good chance to qualify for the nationals. If that happens, it will be the first time both teams will compete at the nationals. The top four teams and top five individual runners at the NCAA Division II Western Regionals Nov. 9 in Fresno, Calif., qualify for the nationals Nov. 23 in Ashland, Ohio.

Madsen, who qualified for the nationals last season, and Christensen combined for 11 individual titles last season. Madsen also earned West Region Male Athlete of the Year honors.


Last week's results


Hawai'i Pacific def. Montana State University-Billings, 30-19, 25-30, 30-24, 30-17

Chaminade def. Western New Mexico, 35-33, 30-28, 30-15


Montana State University-Billings def. UH-Hilo, 22-30, 27-30, 30-23, 31-29, 15-11

BYU-Hawai'i def. Western New Mexico, 30-17, 30-24, 30-28

This week's schedule


Western New Mexico at St. Edward's Tourney (Austin, Texas)

UH-Hilo at Chaminade


Western New Mexico at St. Edward's Tourney (Austin, Texas)

BYU-Hawai'i at Chaminade

Cross Country


BYU-Hawai'i Invitational at La'ie