When Travis Bristow ran cross country at Pine River-Backus High School, he just normally showed up and ran.
That philosophy worked for Bristow as he qualified for the 2002 Class 1A state meet his senior year.
Bristow was recruited to run at Hamline University and was introduced to a new way to look at cross country running.
"Running in college is a lot different than running in high school," Bristow said. "In high school nobody really cared about running, but in college everyone on the team cares.
"The coaching aspect is different too. I'm set up on a training program and in high school you never really had any of that."
Today, Bristow is a junior on the Pipers' men's cross country team and experiencing the best season of his three-year college career.
Bristow placed third at the Carleton Opener with a time of 27:40 and was third at the Dan Huston Invitational, finishing the 4-kilometer race in 12:18. At the Dan Huston race the Pipers, who were ranked 14th in the latest NCAA Division III poll, placed second, four points behind Wartburg College of Iowa, which is ranked eighth in the nation.
School: Hamline University
Sport: Cross country
Hometown: Pine River
The first few weeks of Bristow's freshman year were an eye-opening experience. But he quickly adapted to his talented teammates, who included Wadena-Deer Creek graduate Jeff Metzdorff.
In his three years on the team, Bristow has learned from Metzdorff, who ran in last year's NCAA Division III national meet. The knowledge Bristow gained from Metzdorff has been invaluable.
"In high school I was always the best runner on my team," Bristow said, "but I got to college and the whole team is filled with good runners. Once I adjusted it was nice to have that talent around to run with everyday.
"Jeff has been a big help too. Before I came he ran with an All-American and what he learned he passed down. Without his help I probably wouldn't be doing much better than I did in high school."
The Pipers were without Metzdorff for the first two meets of the season due to injury. That gave Bristow a chance to step up and lead the Pipers in Metzdorff's absence.
"I just happened to be there and step in when Jeff got hurt," said Bristow. "We missed him but now he's back. In a way it helped us when Jeff went down because everyone realized we could be good without him and now we'll be even better with him back."
Bristow said his intensified training, in which he ran about 1,000 miles during the offseason, is a big factor in his success. Now Bristow and the Pipers are poised to make their first appearance at the NCAA Division III national meet in the last three years.
Hamline competes in the Central Region with Nebraska-Wesleyan, the fourth-ranked team in the nation, and Wartburg College, Carleton College and St. John's University. The Pipers need to place in the top five at the region to move on to nationals.
Bristow is confident he and his Piper teammates can get to the Nov. 19 national meet because right now they're running as one well-oiled machine.
"There are a lot of tough teams that we'll be running against," Bristow said, "but I think our whole team feels that if we run like we have been lately we'll get to nationals.
"Being ranked 14th is encouraging because it shows we can compete with anybody. It's fun to see how much better we've gotten the last couple of years."
TROY GUNDERSON can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5865.
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