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Christensen, Kusutani qualify for nationals

by Cindy Wendt, Science & Environment editor


She likes biking and tennis, tried dance, competed in chess, but what HPU junior Nina Christensen enjoys most is dominating a 5 K foot race.

Despite battling pneumonia most of the season, the 27-year-old native of Copenhagen, Denmark, along with sophomore teammate Sayuri Kusutani, qualified for Nationals, at the NCAA Div. II West Regionals Nov. 9 in Fresno, Calif.


Christensen finished fifth overall in 22:15, 27 seconds behind Kusutani, who finished second. Next to finish for the Lady Sea Warriors was sophomore Janine Brown, who finished 31st in 23:18. After that freshmen Rachelle Miller finished 86th in 25:19, and Masako Sagawa took 93rd in 25:48. HPU's women took eighth overall, two spots better than last year.

Christensen began running at 16, and began competing at 18. She graduated from Rodovre Gymnasium in 1994. Since she did not have sports at her school, she had to run by herself. Starting as a 400-meter runner, Christensen realized her legs were not fast enough, so she ran longer distances and soon became a 5 K runner.

She came to HPU in 1999 when former HPU star runner Christian Friis told her “that it was a nice university.” Christensen said she thought coming to Hawai‘i would be interesting. During her freshman year at HPU, Christensen earned All-American honors and finished sixth overall in the National Championships.

In 2000, Christensen red-shirted and moved back to Denmark. She was told running only one season was okay, and since she had already started her education in Denmark, it was a natural choice to go back.

Christensen returned in the 2001 season and proved that she could still dominate the sport when she again captured five individual titles and was named West Region Female Athlete of the Year. She again placed sixth overall in the National Championships, earned all-conference, all-region, and All-American honors, and was named women’s cross country team scholar-athlete. 

Despite her virus, she still managed to win several races, including the University of Hawai‘i Big Wave Invite, in which Div. I teams from the mainland competed. Christensen said she feels very good about her teammates. “They are all so funny and easy to be around,” she said. “So it’s a pleasure to go to practice.” Unfortunately her virus kept her from nearly 50 percent of the practices.

Christensen's success as a runner has been influenced by a 60-year-old friend in Denmark. “He helped me when I was about to quit and made me start believing in myself,” she said. “He picked me up every day for a while and took me to different and interesting places and I loved it—I never thought running could be so peaceful and so much fun at the same time.”

Christensen said that stubbornness and the ability to put up with a lot of pain during races are her strengths as a runner. However, she said she is not good at doing quality training, especially such cross training as weight lifting. When asked what motivates her to win races, Christensen said, “I think it’s an instinct you either have or not. Sometimes I wish I would be a little bit more relaxed and just participate, but when the gun goes off, I just want to win.”

Editor’s note: Chris-tensen and Kusutani competed in the NCAA Div. II National Championships at Ashland Univ., Ohio, on Nov. 23. This meet will be covered in the Jan. 13 issue.




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