Back to the Dash: Pacelli grad returns to her roots on the verge of her sixth college season as a runner – Austin Daily Herald

Back to the Dash: Pacelli grad returns to her roots on the verge of her sixth college season as a runner

Published 11:03 am Saturday, July 6, 2024

Kayla Christopherson was back to where it all started on Saturday.

The former Pacelli runner who ran in six state cross country meets who is about to enter her sixth and final season with the South Dakota State University cross country and track and field teams was back at the Darren Dash, which is where she ran her first ever race.

Christopherson grew up as a next door neighbor to the late Darren Lewis, who the Darren Dash is dedicated to, and when the race began she was just a fifth grader. Little did she know that 13 Darren Dash’s later she would still be heavily involved in the running world. Those thoughts were on her mind shortly after she took first place in the female division with a time of 19 minutes and 17 seconds in the 5K race Saturday morning at Todd Park.

“I grew up knowing Darren as my role model and the Darren Dash was one of the stepping stones to my career as a runner,” Christopherson said. “That kiddy mile I ran in fifth grade (at the Darren Dash) helped shine light on a gift that God gave me and I kind of ran with it.”

Christopherson’s time at SDSU has been a bit of a whirlwind as she has suffered two major injuries, while also losing a track and field season to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last season, Christopherson ran in just one outdoor track and field meet due to injury, where she placed 11th with a time of 4:50.40 in the 1500 and she took first in the 3000 steeplechase with a time of 11:17.31. In the indoor season, she ran a personal best time of 17:54.80 in the 5000, while taking 10th in the conference championships.

Now Christohperson is preparing for her sixth season as a Jackrabbit, which is just as many seasons as she ran for the Shamrocks.

“I definitely did not imagine myself (at SDSU) this long, but I’m grateful that I am in. You’ve got to be patient and sometimes things don’t come when you want them to, but with hard work you can get there,” Christohperson said. “It’s been difficult for sure, but it definitely helps you appreciate the time that you are healthy and the time you do get to compete. It’s given me the opportunity to race with more people. As a sixth year runner, I get the opportunity to run with freshmen who I probably wouldn’t have had the opportunity to race with or even meet otherwise.”

As she did in all of her races at Pacelli, Christopherson greeted and congratulated all of the finishers of the Darren Dash after her race was complete. She even caught up with Pacelli senior Kristen Koopal, who also has state cross country meet experience.

“It’s nice to catch up, but it makes me feel a little old. It was great to catch up with everybody,” Christopherson said.

Christopherson is currently a graduate research assistant in the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering at SDSU. She is looking into the possibility of selling medical devices or working in agriculture when she finishes her studies.

Christopherson also has kept her faith since leaving Pacelli and she made sure to give credit where it was due.

“All praise and glory to God and our savior Jesus Christ,” Christopherson said. “I’m thankful for the Lewis family for hosting this race, getting it started and welcoming me as part of their extended family.”


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