Ida Narbuvoll is unbeaten on the cross country course this season. Five races, five wins.
It’s been a very good year off the beaten path too for the Norwegian.
Last summer, the University of Mary All-American got married. And just last week, she received her green card, allowing her permanent residency in the U.S.
Today in Sacramento, Calif., Narbuvoll tries to finish off 2019 as a national champion. Based on her year so far, it would be foolish to bet against her.
“It’s been a pretty good run,” joked the good-natured Narbuvoll, who speaks near flawless English with a slight hint of her Scandinavian roots. “Many good things have happened.”
They certainly have.
Narbuvoll, already a three-time All-American, has not just won this season, she’s been dominant. In her five victories, three have been by more than 60 seconds.
Dennis Newell, head coach of the Marauders, has spoken often of Narbuvoll’s fierce competitive drive, but winning by such margins at the NCAA Division II level is rare.
“What she’s been doing just doesn’t happen,” Newell said. “She has made something that is very hard look very easy. What she’s done this season is phenomenal.”
That it’s happening in Bismarck is a story all to itself.
Narbuvoll’s college running career began at Edinboro (Penn.) University. After earning All-American honors as a freshman in 2015, a coaching shakeup at the school led to a decision.
“Well, the short story is my coach got fired,” Narbuvoll said. “I didn’t really know what to do after that. Go back to Norway? Stay here and go somewhere else? My coach knew Newell. We went out to lunch (in Pittsburg, Kansas) and I was very comfortable with him. I didn’t visit Mary or Bismarck, but I had a feeling in my gut that this is what I should do.”
Despite all her success, it has not come without difficulties. She missed nearly two years with a serious Achilles injury that put her running career in jeopardy.
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“That was a big challenge to overcome because I didn’t know if I was going to be able to do it. There was some doubt there,” Narbuvoll said.
After nearly two tough years of rehab, she returned stronger than before, placing 12th at nationals last year. This year, she has even higher goals. When the race begins today at noon, she’s targeting the top.
“I do set high goals for myself. You don’t necessarily say those things out loud, but yes, my goal is to win,” she said. “That doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. I know it’s not going to come easy. There are many great runners out there. But I think the elements that are important for me to do well are in place.
“I feel like I’m fit, that I’m prepared. But it all comes down to that day.”
Narbuvoll’s leap of faith to Bismarck was made easier when she came north with a familiar face. Bekka Bonda, a former runner for the Marauders, transferred from Edinboro – known as the Fighting Scots -- to Mary at the same time.
She also felt a strong connection to Newell, who has built the U-Mary women’s cross country team into one of D-II’s best.
“I agree with Newell’s training and the way he does things,” Narbuvoll said. “He cares about us. He’s very good with how he can connect with everybody. And, he pushes us to be our best.”
The proof is in the pudding.
The last two years, the Marauders have placed second at nationals. They’re targeting another top finish this time around.
“The competition is very, very strong,” Narbuvoll said. “But we have a very good team. We’re excited because we enjoy this type of challenge. We definitely want to bring home another trophy.”
Narbuvoll, who will graduate in the spring, plans to stay in Bismarck with her husband. She also plans to keep competing, with her eyes down the road on becoming a marathoner.
“Running is something I love to do,” she said. “I don’t feel like I want to be done running.”
Relentless training, hundreds of miles, regimented diets, all are keys to a runner’s success. But Narbuvoll sums up her stellar results with the most American of phrases.
“I think the biggest thing is experience,” she said. “I’m a fifth-year senior. I’m 24 years old. Those things make a big difference.
“I’ve been around the block a few times.”