Academia wasn't completely behind Regan Bold when she walked alongside her twin sister, Alex, at graduation this past spring.
The sisters figured they had concluded their tenures at Carroll the way they'd envisioned when leaving small-town Winifred four years ago with physical therapy and dental school now respectively awaiting them.
Regan, a member of Carroll's cross country and track teams, figured her days of competitive running were behind her when she trotted across the podium in her cap and gown.
Her sister was admitted to the University of Iowa School of Dentistry. Regan had applied to physical therapy school at Creighton University, but was eventually put a waiting list that appeared would last through the fall.
She still had a year of eligibility remaining athletically and needed six credits to officially finish up her double-major of public health and health sciences. The notion of running for Carroll a final year began to grow the more she waited.
In the season before, Bold helped Carroll capture a fourth-place trophy at the 2014 NAIA Cross County Championships. This past May, she qualified to the NAIA Track and Field Championships in the steeplechase. Her coach, David Morris, would welcome her with open arms if she opted to return.
"We kept it open as a possibility because we didn't knew which way it would go, " Morris said." We advised her to move on because her career is more important, but we also knew her coming back would be good for the team."
That summer she made her plans with Carroll concrete -- she'd exhaust her remaining year in both of her respective sports.
Considering the young talent the Saints returned this fall, Bold had an inkling the 2015 squad could exceed its previous national finish. Individually, she saw it as opportunity to finisher her career even stronger.
"I love to run," she said. "This was just a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, to see if I can improve at all. And I just like being with this team."
A week before this season began, though, Bold received a call from Creighton. An opening at the Omaha, Nebraska, school had surfaced for fall semester.
It was too short of notice. She had already enrolled in her necessary courses at Carroll, added a couple of others, committed to returning to the team and was to begin an internship at Performance Injury Care in Helena.
She turned down the offer, but Creighton saved her a spot for the fall of 2016.
Now, Bold, who placed sixth at the Frontier Conference championships two weeks ago -- the highest conference finish of her career, which includes three trips to the national meet -- is focused on making the most of her final day as a harrier.
Bold and the fifth-ranked, Frontier Conference champion Saints will be shooting for the highest finish in program history Saturday in Charlotte, North Carolina, in the NAIA Championships at McAlpine Creek.
"I do ideally think we can finish in the Top 3," said Bold, who hopes to finish among the top third of the race's contestants. "I think we're capable of running a pretty good race."
If she finishes anywhere around her personal-best 5K time of 18 minutes 22 seconds from 2013, she figures that goal is attainable.
Not bad a bad mark for someone whose longest was run the half-mile coming out of high school.
At Winifred, the 5-foot-9 Bold -- an all-conference volleyball and basketball player -- specialized in the 800 as well as the high jump, placing at the state meet in each event. Track and field was always in the cards for Bold, but cross country was a new pursuit.
"In high school, I always liked to read the distance runners' times and always respected what they did," Bold said. "When I did a two-mile warm-up, I remember that being the longest I've ever ran. My vertical has definitely gone down since then."
In the steeplechase during the spring, Bold got to exhibit a little more of her athletic ability along with her ever-growing endurance. She hopes to qualify for the final heat at nationals in 2016, improving in that pursuit that same way she did from 2014 (eighth at conference) to 2015 (sixth) in cross country.
Morris believes Bold, who did most of her training in the early mornings to accommodate her school and internship schedule, has been a constant since joining the program.
"She's always been solid for us and has been consistent," Morris said. "She's always pretty close to qualifying for track. She improved a lot and keeps getting better."
Carroll's No. 5 women and its eighth-ranked men lock up against a competitive field in conditions Morris believes will be more desirable than 2015 when the Saints ran in 100 percent humidity
"It was 60 degrees and dry at about 1 p.m, (Friday)," Morris said, "We weren't used to the kind of weather we had last year, but if it's anything like it was (Friday), it will be good for us."
The Carroll men, who finished second at the Frontier Championships two weeks ago, finished ninth at nationals in 2014. Lyle Pocha looks to improve on his seventh-place finish a year ago.
On the women's side, two-time conference champion Leah Esposito leads Carroll. She placed ninth as a freshman, 12th a sophomore and looks to exceed both of those finishes on Saturday.