Photo By J. Alan Paul Photography
Erin Teschuk is doing something special every time she laces up the track spikes. The Winnipeg, Manitoba, native is not only leaving opponents in the dust at the college level, she’s one of the brightest up-and-coming athletes in Canada.
Eighteen months ago, Erin Teschuk was just another member of the NDSU distance team that was destined to become a fixture on the cross country and distance medley relay team. She had anchored the DMR team that won the Summit League Indoor Championships title for two consecutive seasons and was becoming recognized nationally in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.
Then, seemingly out of nowhere, the Winnipeg, Manitoba, native became the first Bison cross-country runner to qualify for the NCAA Championships at the Division I level. Teschuk finished 116th out of 255 competitors, but the result has elevated her to heights never before seen from a female student-athlete in NDSU history.
“There was a big change last year, even being coached by Andrew (Carlson) and he has had that experience running professionally as well, and I think he inspired a lot of us to make sure we’re at our best,” Teschuk said. “If you’re going to do something, it’s worth doing as best you can. So I think at that point I was like ‘I want to see how good I can be with this and see if I can compete with the best people in the world.’”
Fast forward nine months later and Teschuk found herself doing exactly what she set out to do. She was in Beijing, China, lining up against the fastest steeplechase runners in the world.
After placing fifth at the NCAA Championships during the outdoor season and becoming a first-team All-American, the 20-year-old was ready to compete this past summer in Canada.
She won the Canadian national title in the steeplechase last July and as a member of team Canada at the Pan American Games in Toronto, she finished fourth.
Teschuk made Fargo her home base this summer, training for her first trip overseas to compete in the IAAF World Championships in Beijing. She was under the training of her distance coach Andrew Carlson, a Fargo native who spent several years competing professionally.
“Hats off to Andrew for developing a training plan,” said women’s track and field coach Stevie Keller. “When you have a student-athlete that continues to improve, you want to continue to challenge them and you look into the future and make a training plan for maybe the NCAAs, then it’s wait a minute, we need to go into the summer, we need to go into August. For him to make those adjustments in training, to challenge her and to continue to see her improve is pretty phenomenal.”
From Edmonton to Toronto, with stops in Fargo in between, Teschuk made her way to Jeju City, South Korea, to climatize herself for her first competition in another continent.
She didn’t disappoint in China. Teschuk ran the best race of her life and did it with her school, country and world watching. She broke the NDSU school record, running a 9:40.07 steeplechase and finished 25th.
Teschuk is the third fastest steeplechase runner in Canadian history. Her time in Beijing also meets the standard for the 2016 Olympic Games later this summer.
“It was my first time competing with the best people in the world and being on that big of a stage, so it was all very new,” Teschuk said. “But, I feel like I was just trying to absorb so much information about it. Just being around people who have done this before and getting used to it, because it’s something I want to be doing now for many years to come.”
Now at 21 years old and winding down her senior year of track and field, you’d never guess the reserved Teschuk had competed among the greatest in the world. In fact, there’s almost an awkward tone when talking about China because it happened six months ago and she’s already on to the next challenge.
“It’s actually a weird thought to think, ‘Oh wow, she was at Worlds this summer,’ because she doesn’t really talk about it or anything. The only time I’ve ever gotten stories from Beijing is if I ask about it,” Teschuk’s teammate and fellow distance runner Taylor Janssen said. “She’s very humble. You’re not intimidated or anything like that because she’s so nice.”
Teschuk isn’t one to bask in her own glory and said competing at Worlds is no different than competing at the Summit League Championships.
She still hasn’t decided whether she’ll return to NDSU this fall for her final season of eligibility in cross country, although she plans on meeting her requirements for an undergraduate degree this summer. To go along with her accolade-laden athletic resume, Teschuk is an All-Academic honoree.
In July, Teschuk will compete in Canada for the official selection trials for the Olympic Games. If she finishes in the top three, she could be on her way to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in August, for the 2016 Summer Games.
“Of course, there’s the end goals and stuff that keeps you going, but it’s also just a lot of fun. Going to practice every day is my favorite part of the day. Obviously, it’s hard some days, but it’s still something I look forward to all the time,” Teschuk said. “It helps to have your teammates there and everything like that.”
After qualifying for the cross country NCAA Championships this November, Teschuk has only competed in a handful of races to begin the indoor track and field season. She currently holds the fourth-fastest mile time in the country and her distance medley relay team is coming off a first place finish in the Armory Track Invitational in New York.
Teschuk said there is one goal she’s yet to reach. Before her college career ends, she’d like to win an NCAA title. The mile is an event Teschuk will have a shot at this spring, and this summer, she hopes to improve on her fifth-place finish in the steeplechase.
“I think she’s going to have a long career in the professional ranks,” Keller said. “Her having the Olympic standard and having an opportunity to potentially compete for her country at the Olympic games is just going to open doors for her. She’s going to have opportunities to train with some of the best running programs in the country after she finishes her career at NDSU.”
Much like Amanda Smock, who represented NDSU by making the USA Olympic team in 2012, Teschuk has an opportunity to prove that elite track and field athletes can be produced in northern schools.
“It’s really, for distance runners, opened kids’ eyes to, ‘I can go to NDSU and I can be a distance runner and I can be successful,” Keller explained. “Kids want to go south, they think they need warm weather and things like that, but I think if you get in the right training system, then it doesn’t matter where you’re at. We have the resources here for any event area to be successful and I think having Andrew here as a coach has proven that.”
Teschuk is living proof that Carlson and NDSU’s system is working. All that’s left to accomplish is up to Teschuk. She’s successfully ingrained her reputation on a national stage in the U.S. and Canada, but now, it’s her time to show the world what Erin Teschuk can do on the track.