Sunday, December 07, 2014

NXN: Hunting for the Red Jerseys

For Wayzata's Jared Carpenter the mission on Saturday at the NXN XC Nationals was simple: "Manlius was in red," said Carpenter. "The mission was to keep them in sight." Once they were in sight the job became to hunt them down and pass them.

Carpenter and 2014 Minnesota State High School cross country champion Connor Olson both saw the foursome in red in front of them.  They ran them down and finished in front of all the red jerseys to help the team vault into second place.  Teammate Ian Eklin joined the duo by hunting down all but the top three of the Manlius men, two of whom finished only a second in front of him.

Wayzata boys with their trophy.
Photo by Kraig Lungstrom
Statistically the difference between the two team was not much.  Manlius averaged 16:03 per scorer, Wayzata 16:06.  The spread between their top five finishers was 49 seconds for Manlius, 56 for Wayzata.  The biggest difference between the two teams was that Manlius stayed with their tried and tested race tactic of going out hard and hanging on.  Wayzata's Kraig Lundstrom, the team's post season coach, advised them not to "go out too hard."

The slippery footing, the hills favored strength runners, smart runners, those who could manage their effort and apportion it as needed throughout the race.  Alas the "hare" beat the "tortoise" on this occasion, but not by much.  Hopkins' Joe Klecker, whose style mirrors Manlius', was not so fortunate. "At the beginning I got out too slow, said Klecker, who estimates he was in 15th or 20th at a mile and a half in close proximity to the leaders, but not in the front pack.

"I probably worked too hard, too fast," in an effort to attempt to get to the front," he said.  "I probably needed more patience."  For Nick Wareham the race was also a valuable tutorial on racing against national level competition.  The race "was definitely one of the toughest I've ever run.  Very competitive conditions.  I've never dealt with that before, but I imagine it's what it's like at top level NCAA meets."

Wareham was informed late that he had a spot in the field as he was on the bubble for an at-large spot, so he hadn't prepared as he might have had he known he was going to be able to race NXN earlier.  But that really wasn't much of a factor, he said.  "I wanted to get out quicker than I did, but it felt like a sprint...I was back in around 40th and I was hoping to get into the top 30. I tried to work my way up."
Wareham finished 37th.

For Edina's team, the goal was to get in the top ten."The main thing was not to do anything different," said Lance Elliott, a top Minnesota Masters runner as well as the team's post season coach.  "I ran with them every day.  A couple of them were struggling with nagging injuries, but that all worked out.  The weather was not in our favor.  Last year we were able to train on the track and on the trails.  This year it got cold really quick and there wasn't many clear roads.

"We had to go indoors under the dome.  We ran some 1000 repeats on the West River Road.  We were ready for the race.  The plan was to get out at a moderate pace and pick off runners as the race went on.  I was watching the race from the top of the last two uphills (that were right before the finish straight).  I saw runners pass ten people on that short stretch.  If you had your legs at that point, you could really make up a lot of ground."

"We decided to be smart," said Logan Ramlet, the team's top finisher who was 60th in 16:13.  Not get caught up in any single element of the race, the course, or the competition.  "It worked out really well," Ramlet said. Another thing that appeared to work out well was the course.  Coaches and athletes described the change as a big plus for the event, that it was a "true cross country course."

"The main idea," said Carpenter, who could have been speaking for any of the Minnesotans running on Saturday.  "was to have a good time.  Have a blast." They succeeded.

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