Good timing brings track stars together

by David La

Track and field is primarily a sport for individuals who prefer to control their own destiny.
But in the case of Christine Gulbrandsen and Wil Kurth, it was a combination of destiny, fate and just good timing that brought them together on the same college’s program, which led them to become husband and wife.
Ingor Steinsland, Christine’s mother, must have seen it coming. In August 1996, amid the heartache of watching her only daughter leave their hometown of Kristiansand, Norway, for a country so far away from their own, Ingor managed to offer Christine one final piece of advice.
“Right before I left, the last thing my mom said to me as she was waving goodbye at the airport was, ‘Don’t find an American man’,” Christine said.
By the time she arrived in Minneapolis, Christine had been up for some 30 hours and was thoroughly jetlagged. The last thing on her mind was meeting anyone, let alone being started on a course to marriage.
Arriving back at his house near campus that same day, Wil Kurth of Rochester, Minn., was dealing with his own set of less-than-ideal circumstances.
“I was coming from my grandfather’s funeral that day,” Wil said. “So I was not in the mood to really talk to anybody.”
Wil and Christine were introduced hours later and, while their frazzled spirits did not allow sparks to fly immediately, Wil said, “I thought she was pretty, but neither of us were in the mood to go through the motions of hitting on each other.” But there would be ample opportunity for courtship after their introduction.
At the time, Wil was living with teammates Benjamin Jensen of Norway and Glenn Lindqvist of Finland. Both could communicate with Christine in Norwegian dialect, so she hung around their house often.
Wil and Christine became fast friends and found a compromise that allowed them to break the language barrier. Both were proficient in German and spoke it in conversation for a time.
Two weeks later, the two went on their first date, and questions of international dating customs were ironed out immediately by Christine.
“I asked, ‘Dating, now how do you define that?'” Christine said. “Wil said, ‘You can define it,’ so I decided right there we were boyfriend and girlfriend.”
School soon began and Christine found dormitory life displeasing. So she moved in with Wil, and while they lived together, the two forged a bond interrupted only by Christine’s return to Norway in December, which gave new meaning to the term Christmas break.
“It was hard,” Wil said of the temporary separation. “But we wrote and called each other everyday.”
If absence makes the heart grow fonder, it also makes the phone bills grow more expensive.
The two were engaged May 1, 1997, and the effect on Christine’s family was apparently contagious.
“My brother had been dating this woman four or five years and she totally wanted to get married,” Christine said. “When she heard his little sister got engaged, she said, ‘That’s it, we are going tomorrow to buy rings.'”
While her brother is getting married later this summer, Christine and Wil exchanged vows themselves Aug. 14 in a 900-year-old church in Norway.
Wil is now a senior and Christine a junior, and both are captains of their respective teams. They are enjoying the opportunity to continue growing strong together and as individual competitors.
“It’s awesome to be with someone that has the same hobbies and interests,” Christine said.
The only problem for the newlyweds at this point is the occasional inability to watch the other compete. Traveling to different parts of the country is an obvious downside, but even meet regulations can be hindering.
“At Drake, I was able to watch Christine win the triple jump on Friday,” Wil said. “But on Saturday when there were more people around, they wouldn’t let her onto the infield to watch me in the high jump.”
Both Christine and Wil said they intend to stay with track and field as long as it’s fun and they remain competitive, which could prove to be quite awhile.
“The day I wake up and I really don’t enjoy it anymore, I think I’ll quit,” Christine said.
Whenever that day comes, at least she’ll be able to look over at her husband Wil and remember just how rewarding track and field can be.