RYAN REEBENACKER, KNIGHT WIRE CO-MANAGER
A cross country season mired in pandemic chaos and the loss of a national meet would be enough to throw many athletes off.
Not Wartburg’s Aubrie Fisher.
The returning all-conference sophomore has emerged as a full-fledged star for the Knights through four contests, taking first in three of them and legitimizing her status as Wartburg’s top runner after two-time reigning All-American senior Carina Collet.
“Cross country, yeah, is an individual sport for sure,” Collet said. “But you run in packs in cross country and Aubrie is my pack this year. That’s super exciting for me because I’ve been on my own for the past two years, so having Aubrie run with me, or even having her out-kick me, is just exciting. It’s like, ‘Wow, this is my teammate and we’re running together.’”
Fisher entered last season as the Knights’ top recruit, a four-time first-team all-conference high school runner from Ackley, Iowa. Despite the impressive high school resume, few could have predicted her role as perhaps the Knights’ best runner by her sophomore campaign, Collet included.
“I guess I didn’t really expect my season to go this way,” Fisher said. “Coming in as a freshman you just learn so much. It’s a lot different than high school, you learn a lot.”
Fisher’s ascension to an All-American level this year has delivered her numerous top finishes, as well as the honor of being Warburg women’s cross country’s first national athlete of the week since Ashlyn Bagge in 2016. Bagge mentored a freshman in Collet in 2017, who has mentored Fisher since her arrival on Wartburg’s campus.
“Carina’s an amazing runner, and she really showed me what it would take to be a great runner,” Fisher said. “She goes above and beyond with training, and that makes me, and I’m sure the rest of my teammates, it makes us all want to work harder.”
Collet showed her veteran capabilities just last week, following up three-consecutive second place finishes behind Fisher with a first-place team finish at the Wartburg Triangular on Saturday. The senior finished at 21:28.13, 12 seconds ahead of Fisher, and proved that while Fisher’s reign as Wartburg’s star is on the way, it may have to wait until next season.
“[Running with Aubrie is] great, don’t get me wrong, but I’m competitive,” Collet said before Saturday’s race. “There’s going to be some back and forth, we’ll see what happens.”
Fisher shocked Wartburg’s home crowd at the first meet of the season by finishing with a 5k time of 18:28.6, beating out Collet for the first time in Fisher’s career by 8.9 seconds. The sophomore proved it wasn’t a fluke by winning the first three meets of the regular season. Though there is no national meet, Fisher does have the opportunity to go out on top at the American Rivers Conference Championships on Nov. 7.
“It was really hard to stay motivated this summer [because of the pandemic],” Fisher said. “It can still be really hard now with no nationals, but knowing all summer that my other teammates were working hard – I knew I had to too because I look to them.”
Fisher will have an eligibility option in 2023 due to this year’s shortened season. Whether she uses it is hard to predict, even for her. Regardless of how long she competes at Wartburg, she has one lofty goal no Wartburg runner has ever accomplished before.
“Coming in [my freshman year] I just wanted to be an All-American,” Fisher said. “I didn’t realize how fast I would be able to get to that level, and even coach told me I had a chance to be one my freshman year, not that I believed him right away. Now that I am where I am I want to be a national champion. I know it’s going to be really hard but I think, with as much as I’ve improved, I think I’ve got a shot at it.”