During practices, Kristian Jensen and other members of the cross country team like to mess with Anton Harrsen.
They pick up rocks along the course and give them to the freshman geology major. The study of rocks is one of Harrsen’s favorite parts about coming to America. The other is running for the cross country team.
“The geology aspect over here is great,” said the Helsingor, Denmark native. “There [are] so many cool rocks. It is funny how my teammates have no respect for geology.”
Harrsen, Jensen and Helene Gottlieb are the team’s three freshman runners from Denmark. Gottlieb came straight from Naerum Gymnasium, a high school in Denmark, to join Temple’s program.
Both Jensen and Harrsen spent last year in Denmark attending Aarhus University. Jensen was the first of the two to receive the opportunity to run at Temple. When Jensen committed to Temple, Harrsen “clung onto Kristian” to become an Owl, Harrsen said.
Prior to meeting Jensen, Harrsen said he didn’t take cross country seriously. But Jensen took Harrsen under his wing as the two began training with each other independently. In Fall 2016, Harrsen had a 5,000-meter time around 15 minutes and 19 seconds, he said. Currently his personal-best 5,000 time is 14:32.
After the first two meets, the Temple Invitational and Rider Invitational, Jensen has finished no lower than third. Harrsen has placed eighth and fifth, while Gottlieb has finished 11th and fourth in the invitationals.
Since Jensen and Harrsen arrived at Temple, they have taken advantage of the more “professional setup” here in the United States.
“In Denmark you are on your own,” Jensen said. “Athletics and school don’t mix well. Here you have coaches ready for you in [the] morning, you have the trainer ready for you at all times, you go to class and use a meal plan after. Everything is set up for you to succeed.”
While the trio enjoys life in the U.S., they are more than 3,700 miles away from their home country.
Jensen said he gets homesick, but he uses it as motivation to train.
Gottlieb doesn’t get to see Jensen and Harrsen as much because they are on different teams. But when she sees either of them, they jump into a conversation in Danish.
“It is great knowing [Jensen and Harrsen] are there and we can relate since we are in the same situation,” Gottlieb said.
“They say Denmark is the happiest country in the world,” coach James Snyder said. “They really embody that. Not having a structured system like the NCAA in Denmark, they come in with a greater appreciation. We see that we don’t need to baby them.”
Some runners from Europe tend to stay one year and return home, Snyder said.
But that hasn’t been the case. Jensen is enjoying the student-athlete life.
Being in Philadelphia allows the group to experience city life they weren’t able to in Denmark. Jensen gets reminded of his current home during the last 80-meter sprint of every Tuesday training session.
“During the final sprint you see the skyline from Center City,” Jensen said. “You can’t finish bad when you have a view like that. It is so cool. We are living the American dream here.”