Matt Berens finishes first at Les Duke Invitational
Sports | Jenny Hudalla
Sophomore Matt Berens was named the MIAC men's cross country athlete of the week for winning the LDI. | Courtesy of Bethel Sports Information
Cross country athlete Matt Berens shattered his previous career-best time when he took first at the Les Duke Invitational on Sept. 8 in Grinell, Iowa. Finishing with a time of 25:33, Berens trimmed a whopping 33 seconds off his personal record and hopes to repeat the process by the season’s end.
“It was a good way to start the season,” Berens said. “But my goal is to finish eight kilometers in under 25 minutes.”
Only three runners in Bethel history have accomplished this feat, but Berens is determined to add his name to the list. Having improved tremendously from his freshman campaign, the ambitious sophomore certainly has head coach Jim Timp’s vote of confidence.
“Matt has all the tools to become one of the best in Bethel’s history,” Timp said. “His drive and determination is what sets him apart from most. This has allowed Matt to make a big jump in performance already this year.”
The Oakdale, Minn. native joined cross country in his sophomore year of high school, running around 30 miles a week. Now, four years later, he has nearly tripled the distance, completing 80 miles every week. Coupled with eating right and getting enough sleep, Berens is doing everything he can to make himself better – and so is his team.
Seniors Zach Haskins and Matt Schafer, who make up the other two-thirds of Bethel’s top trio, continually challenge Berens on the course. While the red-hot sophomore beat Haskins by five seconds in Iowa, the tables turned at the St. Olaf Invitational on Sept. 15, where the seasoned senior finished with a time of 26:44, five seconds ahead of Berens.
“Everyone’s pushing each other to get faster,” Berens said. “The guys on the team hold you accountable for running your miles, and it really makes a big difference in how you perform across the season.”
The team’s dedication and discipline stems from the knowledge that this year’s athletes are some of the best runners Bethel has ever seen. Determined to take advantage of this potential, the team has set its sights on nothing less than qualifying for the national meet.
According to Timp, the realization of this goal hinges on the improvement of the fourth through seventh positions. He looks to Haskins, Schafer and Berens to encourage these other runners and keep them motivated.
“Matt’s hard work and performances set a great example for the younger runners,” Timp said. “They can see through Matt’s efforts that it is possible to be very good if you have the desire.”
As a reflection of his humility, Berens attributes both his success and his grit to one overarching purpose: running in a way that honors Christ.
“Being a Christian athlete requires a lot of perseverance,” he said. “You have to compete with an attitude that you’re using your body to glorify God through what he’s created of you.”
Despite the stamina that being a Christian athlete entails, it is clear through both his statistics and demeanor that Berens isn’t out of breath yet.