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Jeff Kolpack, Published April 12 2012

Bison couple make a good running team

FARGO – The proposal was made on a trail run next to the Missouri River in Mandan, N.D. When James Schanandore asked Brittany Gigstead to marry him, putting running into the equation was a natural.

He’s a former North Dakota State standout who is one of the area’s top amateur runners. She is a senior on the Bison track and field team who is one of the top runners in the Summit League. It’s a husband-wife running team that is about as good as it gets.

“I think we have common goals,” James said. “We both know what kind of work needs to go into it.”

There’s plenty of work. James is working on his doctorate in zoology at NDSU while trying to make strides with his running career. The peak so far was running a 1:05.43 at the Anthem Half Marathon in Virginia Beach, Va., last year. He was fourth overall and the top American finisher.

The goal was to run a sub-1:05 that would have qualified him for the U.S. Olympic Trials.

“I got close,” he said.

A lower back injury has James temporarily on the shelf, but the plan is to start training in time for the United States Half Marathon Championships in Duluth, Minn., in June. James finished his Bison career in 2009, and recently ascended to a higher mileage training regimen to give the Olympics a shot.

“I’m waiting to see what the next standards will be for the next marathon trials,” he said.

Brittany clocked a 2:07.55 at Iowa State during the indoor season that ranked her 45th in the country. She redshirted last year’s outdoor season, but took second in the 800 and 1,500 meters in the Summit Championships as a junior in 2010.

Last week, she finished third in the 800 behind runners from UC-Riverside and Oklahoma in the Sun Angel Classic at Arizona State. In March, she was third in the 400 in the San Diego State Aztec Invitational.

“It’s tough when she’s traveling and I don’t get to see the race,” James said.

That won’t be a problem this weekend with the Bison Open today and Saturday at Ellig Sports Complex. Ryun Godfrey is Brittany’s head coach, “and I listen to Ryun first and foremost,” she said.

But it helps to have other avenues for advice. Running can be tough, period.

James had targeted the Twin Cities Marathon last fall for a good qualifying time and all was looking well for most of the course. Brittany and running coach Jeff Morris checked in at several spots with stop watches in hand.

“Then all of a sudden we get to one spot, we’re looking at our watches and we said he should be here by now,” Brittany said. “And when he still wasn’t coming, I started to get worried; ‘Oh no, something happened. He’s hurt.’ Then he came around the corner and I could just tell right away that his stride looked off and he was hurting.”

James ran the first half in 1:09.03, but finished well off the pace at 2:44.02.

“We support each other,” Brittany said. “There are days when you don’t feel like going out for a run but you know you both have goals and things you want to do, so you get each other out there. It’s nice, even after we’re both done with track, that we’ll both be able to share that. Just go for a run.”

They do get away from the track. Visits to her family in Perham, Minn., or his family in Mandan are all family, no running shoes.

They met when Brittany came to NDSU on a recruiting trip. It was run at first sight.

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546.

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia