Megan Means, a 2018 Norfolk High School graduate, earned all-American status on Saturday by finishing eighth place in a field of 256 runners at the NCAA Division II cross country championships at the Abbey Course in Saint Leo, Florida.
"I definitely had high goals for myself," Means said. “I didn't really know what to expect, but the field was very competitive; there were some really great athletes at the Division II level, so my goal was to race and have positive thoughts, kind of break up the race into sections."
Means said her thoughts and strategy centered on her Viking teammates. "I had this strong mentality of 'Everything I do is for the team,' so we can place as high as we can."
Means was the top Augustana finisher and led the Sioux Falls school to a third-place national finish in the 34-team field behind champion Adams State of Colorado and runner-up Grand Valley State of Michigan.
It was the highest Augustana finish since 2012 when the Vikings also finished third.
"Our goal was to get into the top three, so we definitely accomplished our goal, which was really exciting," Means said. "That makes such a huge difference when you're working for something that's greater than yourself. That just catapults you to another level of strength that you never even knew you had."
The junior covered the 6,000-meter course (1,000 meters more than a high school course) in 20 minutes, 46.2 seconds, which was 24 seconds off the pace of the champion, Hannah Becker of Grand Valley State.
The former Panther will have one more chance to improve on her 2021 mark. "I'm a junior, technically, athletically, but this is my fourth year," Means said. "I'll be coming back again for my fifth year. We all got a season back for COVID, eligibility-wise."
Talking from the Charlotte airport, during a layover, on her way back to Sioux Falls from Florida, Means said she's thrilled to be part of the Viking program. "I just knew that my coaches and my teammates were always going to push me to be the best that I could be. That wasn't just to get your personal best times and to place high in the race. It was just to be able to work hard, to reach your potential that you never thought you could.
"Along the way, I've made some amazing friends and gone places and done things I've never thought I could do, so I think that's my biggest takeaway from my career at Augustana."