Beth Hauer just kept getting better.
The 2009 Little Falls High School graduate got so good at running long distances that she led the Gustavus Adolphus women’s cross country team to the NCAA Division III national championship meet Nov. 17 in Terra Haute, Ind.
Hauer ran a 56th-place time of 22:25.5, more than 25 seconds faster than her next closest teammate, Caitlin Fermoyle. Hauer’s finish helped the Gusties to 21st place out of 32 teams.
It was Hauer’s first national championship appearance.
“It was really fun,” said the senior. “It was cool to travel out of state and compete against people from across the country. There were runners from New York, California and Oregon. It was a totally different experience and it’s something I wanted to do a lot longer than I realized.”
At Little Falls, Hauer ran cross country and track and field, but never qualified for the state meet. She was a three-time state Nordic skier. She finished 43rd her senior season to help the Flyers to fifth place.
Hauer was 16th in 23:00.5 at the Central Region Invite Nov. 10 at St. Olaf to help Gustavus advance to the championship. She was second on the team behind Rebecca Hare.
The four-year runner earned her third All-Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference honor by placing 12th in 23:01.9 to help Gustavus win the MIAC title Oct. 27 in St. Paul.
“This year she struggled a little bit early on,” said Gustavus head coach Dale Bahr. “There was a little bit of senioritis setting in and rightfully so. There are so many other variables that become important your last year of college. You need to make sure you have great grades if you want to go on to graduate school. You start looking beyond school and life takes over. It seemed like she was kind of going down that path a little bit.
“We brought her in and talked to her. We told her nobody deserves to perform well their senior year more than she has because of the commitment and time she has put into the sport. That refocused her and her last three meets were big. She stepped it up at each one of those until she lead us at the national meet.”
Hauer placed 15th as a junior at the MIAC conference meet and was 13th her sophomore season.
But Hauer’s athletic career was a different one.
“She’s been very valuable and one of the things with her that’s very specific to her is she did a lot of practicing on her own,” said Bahr. “She dedicated herself to the sport like nobody I have ever seen in my life. She’s involved in music and she got a scholarship for music so that took precedence over all athletics. So for her to be involved in both for four days a week for four years by herself, and occasionally a teammate would join her, but she did it mostly by herself.
“That really makes her stand out — her dedication to the team and commitment to becoming her best. It wasn’t seen every day by the other athletes on the team, but everyone knew about it.”
Bahr called Hauer a scrappy runner with an unorthodox style. That’s just the way Hauer is — in everything.
“I just think cross country is a lot of fun and I knew I would be running every day anyway so I figured I might as well compete,” she said. “Not being able to practice with the team was hard, but that’s what made it even more rewarding, because I had the odds staked against me.
“It’s obviously easier to practice with someone because you have that example or role model of someone, who might be running faster times than you, but I really enjoy working hard and trying to get better through hard workouts. That’s just who I am. It wasn’t hard for me.”
Hauer said she would like to coach some day and found her college experience memorable.
“It was very rewarding, especially because I wasn’t that good of a runner in high school,” she said. “To come into college and really have large (personal bests) right away because of the larger volume of workouts was really rewarding.”