MADISON, S.D. — Braden Curnow wanted to go out on a high note, but instead, his senior season at Dakota State University went down in flames.
The 2016 graduate of Hibbing High School had already had some outstanding seasons for the Trojans’ cross country and track teams.
Curnow wasn’t expecting anything less this season, his last at the school.
Then the cancellations started coming down due to the coronavirus (COVID-19), and Curnow’s outdoor track season at the NAIA Division II school was coming to an abrupt end.
It wasn't the ending Curnow wanted because it disrupted all of the training he had done over the course of his four-year career.
“This was supposed to be the peak of all four years as a distance runner,” Curnow said. “You have that in mind the whole time. You’re training for something bigger. This was supposed to be it, but it didn’t happen for myself and thousands of other individuals.”
Curnow had quite a career, but after he graduated from Hibbing, he wasn’t at all sure he wanted to run at the collegiate level.
“I wasn’t planning on it, then I met with the coach (Anthony Drealan) that spring,” Curnow said. “He said, “We’ll offer you some money if you come here and run.’ That sounded like a good idea.
“That’s where I ended up going.”
The financial help was good, but Curnow said the icing on the cake was Drealan.
“He was smart and knowledgeable,” Curnow said. “He’s truly a genius when it comes to programming for distance running. He had some awesome knowledge, and he can execute the things he wants to do.
“That’s why I’ve done so well. I’ve been successful due to that. I was lucky to have been in contact with him. I owe that all to him.”
It worked out because Curnow has had plenty of conference championships and all-conference placings in his four years as a Trojan.
As a freshman, Curnow led his team, placing seventh at the NSAA XC Championships, but he missed qualifying for Nationals by one spot. He was named an All-American.
During his indoor season, Curnow finished second in the 5K at the 2017 NSAA Indoor Championships.
During the outdoor season, Curnow qualified for the NAIA Outdoor Track and Field Championships by running a 1:12.33 at the Midland Half Marathon, placing second. He competed at the NAIA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in the marathon, placing 27th. He was second in the 5K and sixth in the 1500 NSAA Outdoor Championships.
During his sophomore season, Curnow was fifth at the NSAA XC Championships, earning All-American honors.
During the Indoor season, Curnow won the 5000 at the NSAA Indoor Meet, setting a new conference record with a time 15:29.7.
During the outdoor season, he finished third in the 10,000 and the 5000 at the NSAA Outdoor Championships, earning All-Conference honors. He finished 15th in the 10,000 at the NAIA Outdoor Championships.
As a junior, he won the NSAA Championship in cross country, then he placed 19th at the NAIA championships, earning All-American honors
During the indoor season, he won the 5K and 3K titles at the NSAA Indoor championships. He placed fourth in the 5K at the NAIA championship, getting his second All-American award.
During the outdoor season, Curnow won both the 10K and 5K at the NSAA Outdoor Championships, helping his team win the team title. He placed ninth at in the 10K at the NAIA Outdoor Championships.
As a senior in cross country, he won two meets, including the conference meet, helping his team qualify for the team nationals, where he finished sixth to earn his third All-American award, and second in cross country.
During the indoor season, Curnow had personal bests in all of his events, then he placed fifth at the National Championships, earning All-American status, his second during the indoor season and fourth overall.
Curnow was training for the outdoor season when the word came down that everything was canceled.
“When I saw the NCAA canceled their championships, I felt bad for all of those athletes, especially since they didn’t get to complete the indoor seasons,” Curnow said. “We were able to do that, but I figured it was coming. We put in a lot of miles and a lot of hours, but there’s nothing you can do about it.”
Curnow said he’s usually not an emotional person, but this news hit him hard.
“This was something that was going to affect me,” he said. “It ended. No one likes to hear you're not competing, especially in the prime of your life. I was angry and depressed, but it is what it is.”
The idea of giving senior athletes an extra year of eligibility has been thrown around, but is it worth it?
“For the people graduating, it might not be worth it,” he said. “Monetarily, they might not be able to swing it to come back and get it done.”
Curnow’s college career might be over, but his training isn’t.
He’s still putting in the miles to compete in the Eugene Curnow 26-mile trail run from Duluth to Carlton. The event is named after his grandfather.
He would also like to run in the Voyageur 50-mile run, but of course, all of that is up in the air due to the coronavirus.
“We’ll see how the virus pans out to see if they keep these races going,” Curnow said. “This is bad for a lot of people, regardless of skill level. Even high-school athletes, especially the seniors, their seasons are ruined.
“In my lifetime, I have never experienced anything like this. It’s crazy. I hope it doesn’t turn out as bad as they think it is, but to have that removed is crazy.”