PLATTEVILLE, WIS. - As one of the top cross country and track runners in school history when he graduated last spring, Caleb Christiansen has made Oriole fans proud for years with numerous state meet berths and memorable performances.
Now at the collegiate level, Christiansen continues to make Springville proud, not only with his efforts as a freshman with the Wisconsin-Platteville men’s cross country and track programs, but with what he has accomplished in the classroom as well.
“Overall, I think things went about as well as I could have possibly hoped for as a freshman with the cross country and track teams,” said Christiansen, who earned a prestigious academic distinction Monday, April 6, being named the Pioneers’ cross country representative on National Student Athlete Day.
“I learned a lot and really improved from the start of the year to the finish in both sports. Obviously, there’s plenty of room for improvement, but both sports were a great learning experience that hopefully will lead me into really good seasons next year.”
National Student Athlete Day (NSAD) was established in 1987 by the National Consortium for Academics and Sports to honor student-athletes who achieved excellence in academics and athletics. NSAD has been celebrated on April 6, annually since its inception, and 14 Wisconsin-Platteville athletes were recognized, one from each of the school’s 14 varsity sports. Honorees were to be recognized at a luncheon, but due to COVID-19, the 2020 luncheon was cancelled.
Christiansen also saw his entire outdoor freshman track season with the Pioneers wiped out due to the virus, though he was able to get several indoor meets in before the NCAA cancelled all collegiate spring sports.
“For me, the indoor season was quite an adjustment,” he said. “In high school we would have one, maybe two indoor meets a year so for me to run indoors, and these kinds of distances was tough for me to adjust to. I was used to running outdoors and mentally, it’s entirely different running at indoor meets.”
Christiansen’s first indoor track meet came at home in Platteville Dec. 7, where he posted a 9-minutes, 52.55-second clocking in the AW-Platteville Intra-Squad Scrimmage 3000-meter run.
“That was not how I wanted my track career to start, but I guess I could only go up from there,” said Christiansen, who placed 19th in the event. “I was looking for something a little closer to the 9:40s, and where I placed was not where I wanted to be either. Some of the guys I beat in cross country a few months earlier beat me in this race. I took this race as a learning experience, and I learned a lot.”
Christiansen continued to drop his times from there, coming back to post a 9:33.10 clocking in the 3000 at the team’s second meet Jan. 25, at Stevens Point, Wisconsin.
“That was a lot closer to where I wanted to be in the first meet,” he said. “We had about a month and a half off between meets, and I worked out quite a bit during the break and we had two weeks of practices before the meet, too, which really helped me prepare.”
In Ripon, Wisconsin Feb. 8, Christiansen did it again coming through with a 9:33.37 effort in the 3000 scoring points for the Pioneers by finishing seventh overall and first in his heat.
In the 3K’s I got down to a 9:29, which for me is pretty good,” he said. “It’s the 5K’s I’m much more comfortable running. The longer I go, the better I feel I do.”
Back in Platteville for another home meet Feb. 1, Christiansen tallied a time of 16:59 in the 5000, and once again came away from the performance with plenty of insight.
“I got struck running alone and that didn’t help my time,” he said. “Guys were either too far out in front or too far behind, and it also didn’t help that it was a pretty small field in that race too. Another learning experience.”
Christiansen came back two weeks later and tallied a time of 16:36.84 on Feb. 15, before coming through with what he called his best indoor race of the season Feb. 21, at the University of Dubuque Indoor meet.
“I was in the slower heat and wanted to win it,” he said. “While I still need to work on my finishes, that was one of races I was most proud of.”
Christiansen crossed the finish line with a time of 9:29.65 setting himself up for a big performance at the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) track and field 5,000-meter championships on Feb. 28.
“I wasn’t expecting to medal or anything at the conference meet, but I was hoping my time would be faster,” said Christiansen, who placed 23rd overall with a time of 16:36.47.
“I placed about where I was seeded, so I’m not disappointed in that. But I want to come back here next year and improve on that, both the place and the time.”
Hoping to get outdoors and show what he could do at the collegiate level, the COVID-19 pandemic squashed Christiansen’s dreams.
“We got in two outdoor track workouts and I was feeling pretty good before the season was called,” he said. “I really feel for the seniors and fifth-year seniors. A lot of them won’t be able to come back next spring and get a second chance at this even though the NCAA has allowed them to do that.”
Christiansen would have mainly competed in the 5K and 10K events at outdoor meets.
The former Oriole opened his collegiate career competing with Wisconsin-Platteville’s cross country program last fall, where he posted a 23:15 time at the school’s 4-mile home meet in Cuba City.
“That race did not go well,” he said. “I went out way too quick and hit a wall about the three-mile mark and my pace dropped quickly. I did learn a lot though. That was a good learning race to see where I was, and where I needed to be.”
In his first 8K race Sept. 14, in Whitewater, Wisconsin, Christiansen tallied a 30:12.1 clocking then began to gradually get faster and faster.
At the Blugold Invitational in Colfax, Wisconsin, Oct. 4, Christiansen came through with a season-best 27:47 effort.
“Those were some of the best conditions we had all season,” he said. “I ran a smarter race and went out a little slower and ran with a group of guys up to about the 5K mark before we began to split off.”
At the WIAC meet Nov. 2, back in Cuba City, Christiansen finished with a 29:23.1 clocking to place 71st overall.
“The weather was not good and the course was super muddy, so everyone ran slower times,” he said. “But I did improve my time from the last time we competed there.
“Overall, there was a learning curve going from a 5K in high school to an 8K in college. This is a good starting point for me though. The way my coach does things is for his runners to be peaking by my junior or senior year, and his workouts are intended to do exactly that, so I feel like I’m on pace for that, and can hopefully make a big jump next fall.”