Sunday, November 06, 2016

"I Ran My Own Race"

All four of the individual champions at the MSHSL State Cross Country Championships  had the same mantra: "I ran my own race." The declarations began with Class A boy's champion Declan Dahlberg of Mounds Park Academy who won in a photo finish as he used his kick to nip runner up Matt Steiger of LaCrescent and Lake City's Carl Kozlowski, as well as defending champion Zack Emery of La Crescent.
Declan Dahlberg holds off Matt Steiger(95) on
the homestretch.  Photo by Gene Niemi

As the lead pack of seven runners emerged from the woods, sprinting downhill with about a half mile left in the 5K race, Dahlberg's inner voice was reflecting different emotions.  He came into the race without the goal of winning.  He wasn't a favorite, he said.  He just wanted to run his own race and see where he ended up.

The race unfolded as a cautious early pace that allowed Dahlberg to stick to his usual tactics of imbeding himself  within striking  distance of the leaders.  "I'm nervous if I get into the lead," he said. Instead Dahlberg wanted to shadow the leaders and trust in his kick to bring him home.  The on and off illiotibial band issues in his left leg, for which he had red and blue kinesio tape applied from just below the knee to just below his hip, did not flare up during the race.

Dahlberg knew he had "put the work in" during the summer and was confident his fitness would get him through as he increased his speed attempting to leave the rest of the lead pack in his wake.  He didn't take the lead until he was going up the short hill that was rerouted this year from a steep incline with a sharp turn at its base to a wider curve and less elevation as the runners crest the the hill and attack the last quarter mile of the race, which is slightly downhill to the finish.

Dahlberg had a gap on everyone else in the race but La Crescent's Matt Steiger, who was sticking to him like glue.  As the pair raced to the finish Lake City's Carl Kozlowski was closing the small gap the duo had on him.  Having finished third last year, Kozlowski put everything he had left into trying to improve on that placement.

As they crossed the finish, Dahlberg dipped like a sprinter while Steiger lunged forward airborne, landing and sliding across the finish line.  Officials had to use the finish line camera to separate Dahlberg and Steiger as the pair was timed only two tenths of a second apart.  Each was satisfied he had given it his all.  Dahlberg said he couldn't feel his legs.  Steiger was surprised he had beaten Emery.  The only time he had finished in front of his teammate before was when Emery was sick or had other deficits to deal with.

Math and Science Academy's Tierney Wolfgram was pretty confident of her front running tactics as she only lost one race during the cross country season and that was at the Griak Invitational against a mix of Class A and AA runners.  An eight grader, Wolfgram had given up soccer to concentrate on running last year.

Wolfgram on her way to the finish. Photo by Gene Niemi
She wasn't helping the soccer team, she said, and she decided that her athletic future was with running.  It wasn't just a sport anymore, but rather a "passion," Wolfgram said, adding that the ultimate goal was to be an Olympian.  From her results this year, few would be surprised if she fulfilled that goal.  Of the four races on Saturday, Wolfgram's 45 second margin over the second-place runner was the most dominant winning performance.

If you don't count her Farmington teammate Lauren Peterson, who was the runner up to Anna Fenske in the Class AA girl's race Fenske, also an eighth grader, beat Peterson by 36 seconds, and Fenske's winning margin over third place finisher Anastasia Korzeno of Chanhassen was also 45 seconds.  "I ran my own race," said Fenske.  "I was expecting a lot of myself...I just kept thinking in my head: 'I wanna State title.  I want that State title."
Anna Fenske(915) and Lauren Peterson(916) push each other
early in the race. Photo by Gene Niemi
Edina's Pat Roos said that the slow early pace of the Class AA boy's race fit his plan.  Frustrated by a season where he won "only one race," but was edged at the line in several others, Roos decided going into the State Championships that he would "go my own pace" during the early part of the race.  "I like going slower and progressing(getting faster as he goes)," said Roos.  

The slow pace "suited me.  I don't like to go out (hard)," he said.  Bouyed by the fact that during his senior year he had been injury free.  No stress fracture like last year.  "I ate healthier.  Got to bed early."  Initially a long jumper, Roos ran a 4:28 mile as a ninth grader in the annual pre-season mile that the Edina distance runners use as a method of seeing if they get faster from the early season mile time trial to one they do near the end of the season.  His Edina coaches and teammates encouraged him to give up the long jump for the distance events.
The pac early in the race. Photo by Gene Niemi

"I probably wouldn't have come this far if it wasn't for them." Roos said.  In the early part of the race, Roos stayed near the front runners, but made no move toward the front of the pack.  When St. Paul Como Park's Innocent Murwanash and Maple Grove's Alex Miley made a move on the Prairie loop  hill about two miles into the race, they broke up the lead pack and seemed to be increasing that gap as they came out of the woods.

Roos was out of contact with them and was worried that he'd let the duo get too far away.  Not wanting another almost win, Roos took off after Miley and Murwanash, as well as Wayzata's Khalid Hussein.  As he started his charge, Roos was all in.  "I didn't look back." It was full speed ahead.  Roos caught and passed Miley and Murwanash and went after and passed Hussein.

"I knew that Roos was coming," said Hussein.  "I tried to fight him off. It was an honor to race all of them." Roos celebrated with up stretched arms as he crossed the finish line.  Mission accomplished.  Frustration forgotten.
Roos streaks toward the finish. Photo by Gene Niemi
Race Results HERE.


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