Saturday, November 30, 2013

News Clips--including Footlocker results

Results from the Footlocker Midwest Region race in Kenosha are HERE for girls, HERE for boys.

Sun Current story on Richfield and UMD runner Hannah Olson is HERE, on Edina's win at the NXN Heeartland Region meet is HERE.

Runnerspace video interview with Edina boys after Heartland Region meet is HERE.

U-Mary's Jennifer Agnew was named USTFCCCA NCAA DII women's XC Athlete of the Year HERE, and was nominated for the Honda  2014 Athlete of the Year award HERE.

St. Scholastica's Chelsea Johnson was named USTFCCCA NCAA DIII Athlete of the Year HERE. St Olaf coach Phil Lundin Coach of the Year HERE.

Moustache Run results are HERE.

Fukuoka Marathon results are HERE.

DyeStat list of qualifiers for Footlocker and NXN Nationals(listed by state) are HERE.

Friday, November 29, 2013

It's Good to be a Minnesota Twin

The Hasz twins, Bethany and Megan at the
MSHSL championships.
Photo by Gene Niemi
It's been a good year for Minnesota twins.  No, not the team that plays at Target Field, Minnesota running twins. The Hasz twins from Alexandria finished one, two in the MSHSL AA championships this Fall.  The Agnew twins--Melissa and Jennifer--finished ther collegiate careers by winning national championships.  Melissa won her last race for U-Mary, the NCAA DII 1500 championship in the Spring.  Jennifer won her last race for the Maurauders, the NCAA DII XC Championships in Spokane last Saturday.

Until this Fall, the Agnew sisters had run together since seventh grade.  For Jennifer the introduction to athletics came when her sixth grade teacher encouraged her to go out for sports.  "I didn't want to play volleyball,"  Agnew said.  So she began running. And jumping(triple jump).  And throwing the discus.

"I love doing it,"  Agnew says of running.  "I'll keep runnning regardless(of being involved in competitive sports)."  It wasn't competitive success that got Agnew started, it was as much social as athletic motivation that pushed her toward sports.  She has an older brother, but he wasn't into sports, so her athletic role model was a classmate in Onamia, Mary Virnig, who Agnew says, helped instill her love for running.

She wasn't an athletic prodigy.  Her competitive success was modest in high school.  She had PRs of 5:19 for the mile, 12:08 for the two-mile, and 106' for the discus.  Didn't qualify as an individual for any events at the State Meet, but went as part of relay teams.  Her senior year the four by 800 relay she ran on was fourth.  Her training never went above 20 miles a week.

She didn't blossom as a runner until she got to college.  It was at U-Mary and through the efforts of their coach, Dennis Newell, that her talent and that of sister Meslissa emerged.  Newell was attempting to take a young program to the next level, and the Agnew sisters became a key part of that development.  In her first year, Agnew says, the program had only eight women, five of them were freshmen.  Newell recognized the talent in the sisters, but also knew that he had to bring them along slowly.

"I visited a lot of DII schools," said Agnew of the process of choosing U-Mary.  "If I'd gone anywhere else, I don't think I would have been as successful."

The credit goes to Newell who is "pretty motivating," Jennifer said.  "He has a big personality.  Kind of like a big kid.  He says he looks at us as daughters or sisters.  He's good.  Our stars aligned.  He can take your goals and enable you to reach them and go beyond.  What he does, it works."

Agnew had no visions of great athletic achievements when she began.  "I was more excited to be on a team."  Her initial philosophy was to "try everything," thus the triple jumping and discus throwing.  When she got to college, the focus narrowed.  That young cross country team "got to nationals my freshman year," she said.  She discovered not only her love for running, but that being successful at it was pretty nice too.  Melissa was the star, the leader of the pack, eventually winning several national titles her senior year.
Jennifer(left) and sister Melissa(right) warm down together after
Jennifer won the NCAA DII title in Spokane.  Photo courtesy of
During their senior year, Jennifer, missed the entire cross country season due to a knee injury.  She didn't think the pain in her patella was going to be a problem, but "it just never really went away."  She rested, tried running.  Pain would came back, and she'd take six days off again.  When that didn't work, she didn't run for a month.  During that time, like most runners, she discovered how attached she was to the activity when she could no longer do it.

It also gave her some lessons in her career choice.  Jennifer is currently in graduate school pursuing a career in physical therapy, and she had the extra season of eligibility in cross country.  She didn't approach the season with lofty goals or as an attempt to match her sister as an NCAA champion.  "(Melissa) got seventh or sixth (in cross country)," said Jennifer.  "So, I thought if I could get top ten.  My goal was to be right there."

In Spokane, Agnew pulled the leaders through a 5:20 first mile.  She didn't attempt to break away, she said, in fact her pace was slowing down(5:40 second mile), but she was soon extending her lead and running away with the race.  "I was running scared," Jennifer said.  "I didn't know how much of a lead I had or if anybody was coming up on me."

Then she had an equipment malfunction.  The timing chip on one of her shoes had come loose and was flapping around.  "I was freaked out," she said.  She didn't know if she had to have the chip or not, so to be safe, she grabbed the errant chip and carried it to the finish.  She was not only in the top ten.  Jennifer, like her sister, was a national champion.

Where does she go from here?  She has several more years in grad school.  She still wants to run competitively.  The goal now being to make it to the Olympic Trials in the steeplechase.  She'll stay with Newell as her coach.  Sister Melissa is doing graduate work in the Twin Cities and running for the Twin Cities Track Club.  So the story for this set of Minnesota Twins has at least one more chapter.

Jennifer Agnew unning away from the competition to the NCAA DII title
Photo courtesy of USTFCCCA

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


If you happen to see this bird on your run today, give him a break.
He's under a lot of stress.

photo by Jim Ferstle

Chelsea Johnson Wins Nationals

Chelsea Johnson running away with the
title at the Griak Invitational. Photo
by Gene Niemi

Chelsea Johnson focused on one goal this cross country season, win Nationals.  Last weekend she did what she set out to do.  Below she talks about her triumph, the season, and the future.

Down the Backstretch:  You seemed to be really prepared for having a good season this year.  Did you do things differently over the summer?  Were healthier this season, injury free?  A combination of those things? What made it all come together this cross country season?

Chelsea Johnson: I was determined to have my best season yet and after struggling with injuries last track season, I began strength training specifically designed for runners with the help of Jeremy Sartain and Tony Christopherson. This made me strong and able to endure all of the mileage I was doing. Along with this strength and determination, I had a great group of coaches who worked together to tailor workouts specific to my needs and lead me to peaking the end of the season when I needed to.

DtB:  When I first saw you this year at the Griak meet you had your only defeat of the year the week before, yet you went at it at Griak.  Went right to the front and ran away from everybody.  Were you not prepared for the St. Olaf race the week before?  Just a bad day?  Was the Griak meet a turning point in the season?

CJ: I was having some stomach issues during the first Olaf meet of the season. It was bothering me during the race and mentally drained me. That made me motivated to do well at Griak, and knowing I placed sixth the year before made me want to strive to place better! Griak was definitely a turning point for me. Winning such a big meet proved to myself that I was where I wanted to be and made me want to keep improving.

DtB:  After Griak you went on a roll of fast times, getting down to 21:04 I believe, then the final two meets prior to Nationals you ran high 21s.  Were you holding back a bit in those meets or was that simply all it took to win on those days?  Were you consciously conserving energy for Nationals?

CJ: I ran the 21:04 at Oshkosh, a quick flat course. I was hoping to break 21 after that, but the next race, conference, was a very hilly course with soft footing and many tight turns. Regions I was close with a 21:10. I can't say I was holding back, but I wasn't going my absolute hardest.

DtB:  You seemed very composed and self confident when I talked with you after Griak and after the Region meet.  There was an air of satisfaction, but also a feeling that the real job was yet to be done and all these other races were merely stepping stones.  Didn’t see you at Nationals, but you said you raised your arms when you crossed the line.  Was there more emotion after the nationals win or just an exhausted satisfaction at achieving what you set out to do?

CJ: The feeling crossing the finish line and knowing I had just won, knowing I achieved my goal and one of my biggest dreams was just incredible. There were so many emotions happening all at the same time, but mostly excitement and joy!! I accomplished what I set out to do and that was the best feeling in the world knowing that all of my hard work had truly paid off.

DtB:  Looking at the times from the other Region results there were about a half dozen of the women with comparable or better times going into Nationals.  It looked as if you were not going to be running by yourself for most of the race as had been the pattern.  Did you mentally prepare yourself for running in a pack?  Was it a big adjustment or just a small one?  Did you do any surging early in the race to test out your opponents or attempt to break away?  Any “crisis of confidence” or moments of doubt at nationals or did you just stick to your plan of being up front and going for the win at the 5K mark?

CJ: I was nervous before the race knowing that other women had run faster times than me, but I didn't let that affect me mentally. It was different running with the pack for most of the race, as I hadn't all season. The pack pushed my at some points, and I pushed it at others, then with 1k to go I began to pick up the pace, figuring the pack would follow, but nobody latched on and I ended up making a gap. I didn't realize I pulled so far ahead, I thought they were about ten feet behind me so I sprinted as hard as I could at the end because I wasn't going to lose!

DtB:  Did the soggy footing have any impact on your mentally or physically?  When you made your move did you break away quickly or did it take several surges.  Did you know coming down the finish straight that you had the race won or didn’t you give yourself that luxury?  How did it feel once you crossed the line and were national champion.  Did it hit you right away, did it come in waves, are you still adjusting to it?

CJ: When I was checking out the course on Friday there were a couple of slick muddy turns back in the woods and I was nervous for those because I didn't want to fall, but when we got to the course on Saturday I headed straight back to see if it was still muddy and saw that they put sand down to grip over the mud. That was a relief.
Like I said above I didn't know I had won until I was literally at the line. The feeling was amazing and terrible at the same time. Terrible because I was exhausted from running so hard, and yet amazing knowing I had run so hard and was a national champion.

I still can't believe it's real. It has come in waves and every time somebody congratulates me I believe it more and more each time.

DtB:  What’s next, aside from some “down time” to recover and enjoy what you’ve achieved? 

CJ: Definitely going to take a little break and then get back into training for track! Hoping for a great track season as well!

DtB:  Any grand plans for track, post collegiate running, or will the latter depend on how the track season goes?

CJ: Well now I want to become a national champ in track too! And my dream is to become a professional runner!! Running is my life now, and I can't imagine not doing it, and competing after college is definitely on the radar. I'm hoping to be contacted soon by a running team or the like! 

News Bits

Flotrack video on Brooks Beasts program with former Team USA Minnesota member Jamie Cheever is HERE,  HERE, and HERE.

Northfield News summary of the NCAA DIII nationals is HERE.

Shakopee Valley News report from NCAA's on Todd Lusignan and Maria Hauger is HERE.

Duluth News Tribune story on St Scholastica's Chelsea Johnson and UMD's Samatha Rivard is HERE. Short TV interview is HERE.

Minnesota Daily on the Gopher women's races at the NCAAs is HERE.

Perham Focus story on Keeghan Hurley's decision to go to Southern Utah for college is HERE.

St. Cloud Times all area boy's HS XC team is HERE, girl's team HERE.

Running Times ultra report has details of JFK 50 miler and XTERRA World Championships 21K HERE. Mike Bialick finished sixth in the JFK 50 miler.  Former Team USA Minnesota team member Patrick Smyth won the 21K WC.

MileSplit individual HS boys rankings are HERE, girls HERE. Girls team rankings HERE.

Sean Hartnett's NCAA DI men's race photo album is HERE. Women's DI race is HERE.

Dyestat boys team rankings are HERE, girls HERE.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

St. Olaf Takes the Title

When St Olaf coach Phil Lundin wants to pay a compliment to one of his runners, he'll often use a "Royism," a phrase or saying passed down from Lundin's coaching mentor at the University of Minnesota, Roy Griak.  "They're snotty nose tough" is one that he picked out of his collection to describe members of this year's team.  They're also NCAA DIII XC champions, the first national champs in cross country in St. Olaf history.

To listen to the Ole dynamic duo of coaches Lundin and Dave Griffith describe the development of this year's team from contenders to champions reveals a mixture of hard work, intelligent training, and luck.  No secret workouts, no "magic sauce," no oratorical pyrotechnics or motivational speech to the team.  Just a methodical, consistent level of high performance and blending of skills.

"Griff and I are probably the worst motivators in the world,"  said Lundin.  "We just get them to the line and let them to their job...We do expect people to compete hard."

At the beginning of the season Griffith, whose coaching relationship with Lundin goes back decades to when the pair coached at Burnsville High School, worked the numbers.  He evaluated the talent they had on their team and examined the other teams in their conference(MIAC), region, and the nation.
Dave Griffith

"Looking at the stats,' Lundin said.  "(We could see) we had the personnel to at least think about a national championship.  But to win a national championship, the stars have to be in alignment."  There were no pithy sayings above the locker room door or posted on the walls.  No methodical plan laid out in detail about how to win that championship, other than simply taking care of the task of preparing for that aspiration day by day, workout by workout.

Run on soft surfaces.  Don't race your longer training  runs.  Stay healthy.  Listen to the athletes.  How were they feeling.  What injuries had to be either treated or workout schedules adjusted to avoid  a potential physical problem.  "Pretty basic stuff," says Lundin.  "Just manipulation of (workout) volumes and intensities.A lot of emphasis on the individual...Ideally we just want to be consultants."

From examining past performances, Griffith and Lundin could see the potential of the team.  The key, however, was to transform that potential into performance.  In junior Grant Wintheiser they had a proven team leader, MIAC and NCAA Central Region champion from 2012, a contender for the NCAA individual title.  Junior Jake Brown, a top cross country skier who finished 16th at the American Birkebeiner 50K this year, transferred from Princeton, started slowly but blossomed as a talent as the season progressed.

Senior Brian Saska, a national class middle distance runner who developed into an All American 8K XC runner. Sophomores Jake Campbell and Calvin Lehn, who contributed the key fourth and fifth place runner scores allowing the Oles to triumph by two points over North Central. Pushing the top five were junior Phillip Meyer and senior Dylan Davis.

Going into Nationals, Lundin says, the Oles aspired for first, but wouldn't have been disappointed if they were runners-up or finished third in tandem with their national ranking.  When the gun went off to begin the contest, opportunity and luck came into play.  "I was surprised North Central didn't go out aggressively," said Lundin.  "We kind of stole the race."  When North Central didn't immediately take control, the Oles took advantage the "gift" and grabbed the lead, an advantage they would not surrender.

The hallmark of the team this year, Lundin said, is that they were consistent. "The group really competed at a high level every time they went out," said Lundin.  They weren't impacted by the fact it was the national championships.  They weren't deterred by the fact that they were competing against the dominant team in DIII, North Central.  No secrets.  No sauce.  Just execution.  And success.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Cara Donohue Second in NIRCA XC Championships

Kind of lost in the shadow of the high school and college championships were the NIRCA XC Championships held November 15-17 in Hershey, PA.  The National Intercollegiate Running Club Association is an umbrella group for collegiate running clubs.   "The grassroots organization promotes networking and friendly competition amongst collegiate running, cross country, and track clubs," is its description on their website HERE. "NIRCA coordinates many events, including a fall cross country season, Cross Country Championship Series, Road and Track Nationals, and all-club conferences. NIRCA is more than just running.

"The mission of NIRCA is to promote club running for students at the collegiate level. By serving as the governing body for running clubs, we provide competition, support, and networking opportunities for our member clubs."

Minnesota has a team that participates in the NIRCA events.  At this year's XC championship, Bloomington Kennedy grad, former Bethel collegiate runner, and grad student at the University of Minnesota Cara Donohue finished second in the women's 6K race in 22:42.  Below she talks about her sports background, the NIRCA, South Africa, her faith, and future running plans.

Cara Donohue striding into the finish at the NIRCA XC]

Down the Backstretch:  Sports have been a big part of your life.  You were a multi sport athlete at Bloomington Kennedy, ran for Bethel as a freshman.  Now you’re continuing on with the NIRCA.  How have sports impacted your life?

Cara Donohue: Sports have been an integral part of my life for as long as I can remember.  When I was growing up, there were few sports that I didn’t try for at least one season.  Throughout high school, soccer and lacrosse were my main sports until I broke my jaw playing lacrosse, which led me to try cross-country running for the first time.  

My parents always told me I was a hyperactive child growing up, and athletics continue to be a great way for me to get my energy out.  Sports have been a way for me to have fun and stay active while also being able to connect to other people and learn life lessons.  For instance, having various injuries has taught me determination and how to choose joy despite my circumstances. 

DtB:  Do you do other sports now or just running?

CD: While I miss playing contact sports, my mom jokes that I can’t as long as I’m on her insurance, because there’s been too many medical bills!  When I get the chance to, I play a variety of sports for fun in my free time.  I also tried the rowing team at the U of MN when I transferred here a few years ago, but I missed running way too much!  I also enjoy doing duathlons and cross-train by doing yoga and biking.

DtB:  How did you get involved with the NIRCA?  What role does running play in your life right now?

CD: I first became involved with NIRCA two years ago when I transferred to the U of MN.  I was looking for a running community, and I find the University of Minnesota Running Club to be a great fit.  It has proven to be a great social and support system for me throughout my undergraduate education and now when I am in grad school.  I have the best teammates.  They are so supportive of me in a variety of ways.  I wouldn’t’ be nearly as successful if I didn’t feel so loved and supported by them at the startline    .  Running is both something I’m passionate about and a stress relief for me.  Life can be busy and overwhelming at times, and it’s something that helps me to keep my sanity and a positive perspective on life.  Running is a good analogy for many situations in life, and as a Christian, it helps bring Biblical concepts and my beliefs to life.

DtB:  Why go the NIRCA route other than the NCAA system?

CD: I enjoyed competing on a college team at Bethel, but transferring to the U of MN for my major  (speech language hearing sciences) did not allow me to join the U of MN team, although I would have liked to.  It's hard in some ways to be on the club team, because I primarily train by myself (often times at 5:00 a.m.) due to my class and work schedule.  I often run with boys on the team, because I seldom have teammates that can train with me.  

But on the plus side, I have a lot of freedom in my training and competing.  I also feel like I can achieve better balance in my life, and that I have more opportunities to be involved in a variety of things that are also important to me including volunteering, working in two research labs, tutoring, and my church to name a few.  The other thing I appreciate about running for NIRCA is there is no pressure on me from other people to run; it is pure self-motivation.

DtB:  Don Hurley mentioned recently that sports have changed since he was an athlete in the 1970s, early ‘80s.  He believes that today’s high school athletes (his son runs for Perham) is that the kids display more “sportsmanship,” socialize more with athletes from other teams.  In his day, Hurley says, those you competed against were treated in a more “military” fashion.  They were the “enemy,” to be defeated, not to get to know.  

My wife believes that one reason for the change might be women’s athletics.  That the opportunity for women to be participants in major sports programs has resulted in a breaking down of those values.  That the top athletes socialize with one another.  Compete hard, but once the competition is over bond with their competitors because they are all involved in the same activity.  It brings them closer together as people, rather than as rivals.  Any thoughts on this theory?  The role of social media, possibly, in accelerating it?

CD: I noticed a marked difference in the running community and the way people interact between teams in comparison to when I played contact sports.  When I played soccer and lacrosse in high school, while I displayed sportsmanship, there was no friendliness between teams before or after games.  It was a strange shift for me to make when I started running competitively.  However, it has become one of the things I value most about being part of the running community now.  

For instance, I was so grateful for other teams and individuals that cheered for me during the Nationals race last weekend.  I couldn’t have done as well without so much support. I think running is unique in that during a race you are doing it on your own, but after you can bond with people over it because you experienced the exact same things and you can appreciate what they did.  It’s like so many other things in life that bond you together with other people because of shared experiences. 
Donohue on the course in Hershey.

DtB:  You say that two of the things you like are running and traveling.  Does the NIRCA program feed into this? 

CD: For the most part during our season, we stay in the Midwest in Minnesota and Wisconsin.  While we typically do travel further distances for NIRCA Regions and Nationals, I hope to do more traveling in the future related to running.  In the summer 2012, I went on a track and field trip to South Africa with the organization Athletes in Action. It was a life-changing experience and I hope to go back someday in the future!

DtB: How does sport fit into your academic pursuits?  Your life in general?  An outlet for your competitive instincts, social life, a bit of both?

CD: I graduated a year early this past spring and I am currently pursuing a MA in Speech language pathology.  Academics and athletics have both always been important aspects of my life.  I’m a learner and I’m passionate about the field that I’m going into, but running is something that helps me to achieve better balance in my life.  Graduate school can be intense at times, but running is both a stress relief and a tool that teaches me that I can get through things even when they are hard.  It has taught me both mental and physical toughness.

Running is a way that I have grown in my Christian faith as well.  I recognize that my talent comes from my God and I hope to use my abilities to glorify God and impact other people’s lives.  While I enjoy running and set goals for myself to achieve, I always choose a Bible verse, a person, or a cause to run for other than myself.  I experience God’s presence when I run and learn from him in so many ways through training and racing.  When I’m doing workouts, I learn that I can’t do them on my own strength, but with God I can.  I learn that I can pray myself through races.  I learn that I can calm my nerves at the start line by imagining God is right next to me holding my hand (Psalm 73:23).  

I learn to trust that I can perform well race to race.  This year was a big year for me, because it was a comeback year.  Last year, I was having an awful year racing and was feeling exhausted all the time.  I could barely get out of bed in the morning and could hardly complete my studying.  I finally found out that I was severely anemic and I was devastated.  It took me over six months to stop feeling dizzy all the time and to start feeling normal running again.  While last season was a big disappointment to me, it taught me humbleness and that God is strong even when I am at my weakest point.  It was amazing to see how God has restored my health.  He has restored the joy of running to me.  The Joy of the Lord is my strength (Nehemiah 8:10) has been one of my mantras this season.

DtB:  Do you view running as a permanent part of your life?  Something you will do once you’re involved in your chosen profession, or merely a hobby that you are pursing right now?

CD: Running is something I don’t think I could give up permanently if I tried.  This week I’ve been forcing myself to take a week off of running and I can’t wait until the week is over!  I hope to continue to run competitively for as long as I am healthy and able to do so.  I often run in road races during the spring and summer too.  Last year, I also helped coach cross country at Kennedy high school.  I hope to have the opportunity to do this again in the future as I enjoy working with kids and I realize the importance of investing in young runners! 

Donohue crossing the finish at the NIRCA XC Champs

DtB:  Do you have any ambitions in running aside from participating?  Desires to see how far you can take your talent or is the sport more a piece of your overall life plan?

CD: I plan on running with the University of Minnesota Running Club this spring for track for the first time and again next year during my last year of graduate school.  After that, I would like to continue to run competitively with a club team in Minnesota or wherever else I may end up.  This was my first full season of cross-country that I was healthy for and I’m still a relatively inexperienced runner, so I’m excited to see how fast I can become.  Running is something I love to do and I hope that other people are able to see how passionate I am about it.  While I always have goals about how fast I would like to run races, my bigger goal is that my running can positively impact other people in some way.  I mentioned before that I enjoy working with kids and also took a trip to South Africa to work with them.  I hope that I have more opportunities to do things like this in the future. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

NCAA Nationals Summary

It was a good day to be from Minnesota at the NCAA Championships this weekend. St. Olaf's men's team won the DIII title while St. Scholastica's Chelsea Johnson won the women's DIII individual title.  Emma Bates finished second in the DI women's race and Jennifer Agnew of U-Mary won the DII women's title.
St Olaf men's team celebrating their win. Photo courtesy of the
St Olaf knocked off two-time defending champions North Central by a mere two points, 84-86.  The Ole's top four made the All American team with Grant Wintheiser taking third(24:43.8), Jake Brown eighth(25:00), Brian Saksa(25:07.3) seventeenth, and Jake Campbell(25:19.7) thirty-first. Calvin Lehn (25:41.2) sealed the win by finishing sixtyfifth.  Bethel's Matt Berens also made All American, finishing seventh in 24:57.5.  The team race was so close that a mere two seconds was the margin of victory.  If either North Central's third or fifth point scorers had run two seconds faster, they would have won their third straight title.  Carleton's mens team finished 16th with 442 points. The Carleton women finished 18th and also scored 442 points

The race is on for the DIII women's individual crown. Winner
Chelsea Johnson is first on the left, team champion
Johns Hopkins' Hannah Oneda(247), St Olaf's Noelle Olson(360),
and  Michaela Freeby(34) of Willamette battled stride for stride
until 5K when Johnson made her move.
Photo courtesy of NCAA
In the DIII women's race Chelsea Johnson had plenty of company up front, but was able to execute her race plan to perfection.  "It felt weird to run with other women," said Johnson, who is used to running alone in the front.  "But I knew I had to hold my spot and then take off at the end.  I decided when walking the course and talking with coach, that the 5K mark was going to be the time I was going to go." 

Go she did, gradually pulling away to an eleven second victory in 21:11.7.  "I was exhausted, happy and excited. I just put my arms in the air when I crossed the finish line."

In stark contrast to the four-way battle in DIII, U-Mary's Jennifer Agnew hardly had any company, gapping the competition early and maintaining her lead to the finish.  Agnew also won by 11 seconds in 20:50.7.  Her only anxious moment came when she nearly came to a stop picking up the timing chip that fell off her shoe.

Jennifer Agnew breaks the tape. Notice in her right hand the
timing chip that fell off during the race.
Photo courtesy of NCAA
In contrast with the soggy turf in Indiana for both the DI and DIII meets, the DII race was held in Spokane where it was sunny and dry.  No sand spread over slippery, googy mud pits as in DI or merely soggy ground for the DIII racers.  The DI race also featured a strong wind in addition to the sand and soft surface that at least one of the female racer found too slick as she took a tumble early in the race, fourtunately she was on the outside of the pack, so her fall didn't turn into a pile up.

South Dakota State's Trent Lusignan didn't panic over the conditions, like Johnson he merely executed his race plan.  “The game plan was to start out easy," said Lusignan. “I felt smooth, I was just working my way up and guys were falling back.” At 3K of the 10K race, Lusignan was in the massive packe in 61st place, by 5K he had moved up 30 places to 31st in 15:01.7 at halfway.  By 8K the Shakopee grad had moved up to 12th, a spot he held to the end, finishing in 30:18.8, earning All American honors.

Ferlic with his medal
The course was flooded where the usual start is so the organizers moved the starting line up a around 100 meters, so it wasn't a full 10K.  Mounds Park Academy grad and Michigan's number one man Mason Ferlic didn't let any of that bother him as he also madeAll American, placing 22nd in 30:32.8.

  "One thing I think people don't understand about today is that he ran in similar muddy conditions at the Big Ten and was really penalized," said Michigan XC head coach Alex Gibby.. "He's not a strength-oriented runner. He's efficient and he's graceful, but there's no power to his game. 
Mason Ferlic sprintng off the starting line.

"At the Big Ten, he really struggled over the last mile, ending up ninth, and losing to a bunch of guys who he handled and handled well today. He was the first Big Ten finisher across the line. You speak about learning curves during the championship portion of the season and in three weeks he's listened to the tactics of what we've wanted him to do and he executed very successfully. The learning curve moved very quickly for him."

Elk River and Boise State's Emma Bates has also been a good student of the sport.  When Iona's Kate Avery took off early in the race and opened a big lead, Bates didn't panic.  She worked with eventual race winner, Dartmouth'Abbey D’Agostino, to gradually reel in Avery.  It took them nearly 5K to do it and D'Agostino then made a move of her own, breaking away from Bates and Avery to narrowly miss breaking 20 minutes finishing in  20:00.3.  Bates was second in 20:03.9, and Avery ran 20:05.4.(the women's start was also moved up because of the flooding, so none of them ran a full 6K).
Emma Bates running for Elk River.
Photo by Gene Niemi

Samantha Rivard

In the DII race the University of Minnesota Duluth women placed tenth, Winona State 16th.  Freshman Samantha Rivard led the UMD team  and made All American in eighth in 21:17.8. Winona State's Jessica Young was 28th to also gain All American status.

"It was a blast being there," said Rivard. "We put up a good fight and were looking to place a little higher, but we're going to continue to improve and push each other to succeed. This was one of the best seasons this program has ever had."

Sophomore Hannah Olson (67th/22:20), junior Allie Rudin (80th/ 22:28.4), freshman Breanna Colbenson (90th/22:32.6) completed the scoring for UMD.

The seniors led the way for the University of Minnesota women, who placed 20th in the DI team competition.  Led by senior Laura Docherty (61st place/20:58.2) and fellow seniors Maggie Bollig (108/21:22.4) and Kelli Budd (118/21:25.7) junior Molly Kayfes(120/21:25.9), and senior Katie Moraczewski(135/21:33.5) scored for the Gophers.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Jennifer Agnew Runs Away with DII Women's Title; UMD Women Tenth in Team Race

U-Mary's Jennifer Agnew dominated the women's NCAA DII Championship race, running away from the field and soloing to victory in 20:50.7on Saturday in Spokane.The UMD women finished tenth in the team race with 277 points. Winona State finished 16th in the team competition.

Results are HERE.

Trent Lusignan, Mason Ferlic Make All American; Emma Bates Second in Women's Individual Race

Shakopee and South Dakota State's Trent Lusignan and Mounds Park Academy and Michigan's Mason Ferlic waded through the mud, cold, and wind in Terre Haute, Indiana to make All American at the NCAA DI men's race on Saturday.  Lusignan finished 12th in 30:18.8.  Ferlic was 22nd in 30:32.8.

In the women's race Elk River and Boise State's Emma Bates was second in 20:03.9.  The Gopher women finished 20th with 406 points.  Shakopee and Virginia's Maria Hauger finished 63rd, helping Virginia finish ninth in the team competition.

Results are HERE.

St. Olaf Wins DIII team title

St. Olaf won the team title by two points in the NCAA DIII men's race with 84 points.  Team title favorite North Central finished second with 86.  The Oles's Grant Wintheiser finished third in 24:34.8 behind winner Michael LeDuc of Connecticut(24:29.3) as St. Olaf packed three runners in the top 20.

Results are HERE.

Chelsea Johnson Wins DIII Individual Title

St. Scholastica's Chelsea Johnson won the NCAA DIII individual championship in Hanover, Indiana.   Johnson broke away from a pack of four around the 5K mark and cruised to the finish in front of St. Olaf's Noelle Olson, as the Minnesota pair took one, two.  Unofficial time for Johnson 21:11.7. Johns Hopkins won the team title with 85 points.

As she has all season Johnson, a senior,  pushed the pace from the start and began her drive for the finish about halfway through the race. Johnson and Hopkins' Hannah Oneda(fourth/21:27) were the aggressors, trading the lead for most of the way.  Kaleigh Kenny(third, 21:23) of Williams was also part of the quartet.  Johnson made her last big move near the 5K mark to open a gap on the rest of the field.  Olson, a freshman,  followed in the back of the pack of four and made her move down the stretch to take second in 21:22.3.  Macalester's Kimber Meyer also made All American, finishing 22nd in 21:50.6.  Carlton(442 points) finished 18th in the team race, St Olaf (579 points) 26th.

Results are HERE.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Post Race Comments From Minnesotans Who Ran the .US National Road Race Championship 12

By Sam Rush
Based upon everyone's interviews this was a fast race, a challenging course and well organized. Below are the thoughts and some of the experiences the runners had race day.

Mike Reneau
 "I was out the back (of the pack) in about two miles, I did not have the fitness level. It was a great experience, course and would definitely come back." At one point Mike was in 20th place, but he was able to move his way up to finish 15th. Most of the people he passed he said were the guys who went out too fast.

In response to the question, "Do you ever notice your surroundings, since the course had a number of landmarks on it?" Mike said that he has gotten older and more experienced he no longer studies the course like he used to do. In the past he would meticulously go over every detail including determining all the tangents. Now he finds it nice sometimes to go out and not stress about every detail.

Joe Moore
 "Fast" was Joe Moore's initial impression of the race. "Evenly paced, but fast for me," was his second response. He started in the pack at the beginning but drifted off the main pack after about 5K making some surges to hang on or stay on the back. The pack remained together until about four miles when it started to splinter. As Joe recollects he was at about five to five-and-a half miles in when he heard a fan yell to the runner next to him that he was in 10th place making Joe 11th. "11th sucks, they give money to 10th," Joe thought and made a hard move to pass. From then on, "I ran scared" he explained. He wanted to make sure it did not come down to a kick.

To see Joe's take on Nick Arciniaga's representation of the Rebel Alliance at the race click the video below. Did this inspire Joe? Did he find his own inner Jedi?

Ben Sathre
"It was not my day" explained Ben. "I have been running for seven weeks, not doing anything fast just LT runs at 5:25-5:30 (minute per mile) pace." That would explain why dropping a 4:45 first mile felt really hard. The next few miles he tried to push through it telling himself,"Hang on, just get through this rough patch." At three miles his body said no but he continued to push as much as his body would allow. A valiant effort of the mind trying to overcome the body.

Meghan Peyton
"I went out pretty fast running the first mile in 5:15, having run a marathon 6 weeks ago it was the fastest mile I have done in a while." Meghan took Molly's and Shalane's fast start in stride and stuck to her plan despite the fast first mile. Her plan was to stay with the next pack and finish as high as she could. Early in the race Meghan was 12th and slowly moved up to 11th by 10k before closing hard to finish in 9th.bMeghan will now take two weeks off skipping the USATF National Club XC Championships, the second weekend of December, and get ready for 2014.

Kelly Brinkman
"I was really happy with where I placed. I had fairly low expectations because the last couple months have not been great for my training. . .my goal was a 42 minute race, which is around 5:40 pace, and would be towards the back of the pack." As she expected, Kelly was strung off the back of the pack and ran most of the race race on her own finishing 18th.

She is now preparing to run the Club XC Championships with her new team Twin Cities Track Club. After that she will hit the USA Running Circuit to try to improve upon her tied for 28th place finish and get another invitation to the .US National Road Racing Championships.

Photo ID: Dennis Barker Embarks on a New Journey

Dennis Barker
Runners of that era will recognize the hairstyle as familiar to that of Western Kentucky University and the UK's Nick Rose, who is a runner Dennis Barker admires.  The great talent, the gritty front running tactics, and the long, flowing hair attracted the St. James, Minnesota native who said his off track attire at the time this picture was taken was green bell bottoms and a T-Shirt with the peace sign on the front.

Raised on a farm, Barker was like most high schoolers who used sports as an outlet. Sports became an often used vehicle that gave one an identity, a persona. Today they'd call it a "brand." He started his athletic career  as a seventh grader on the football team, but after not playing a single down during his first and only season, he got the message that the coaches did not believe he would be the next Adrian Peterson.  He thought about playing baseball in the spring, but his football experience made him fear that if he was also not deemed talented enough all he would do is ride the bench.  Instead Barker opted to try track.

He chose to run the sprints, hurdles, and long jump, but soon discovered that speed was not one of his athletic talents.  As fate would have it, junior high kids back then ran the 660 as part of the President's Physical Fitness program.  He ran.  He won, and a long distance running career was launched.  That Fall, as an eighth grader, he went out for cross country.  "When you have a little bit of success," he said of the 660 victory.  "You want more."

It was as a high school cross country runner that Barker was introduced to his first  coaching mentor, St. James coach Norb Renner.  "He had a real passion for the sport," said Barker.  "He was a pioneer in cross country (coaching.  From him) I learned about how to treat a team."  That year, with Barker running as fourth or fifth man,  St. James ended Mankato High's 16 year streak to win the  District championship and then finished second in the  Region meet to qualify for the State Championships.

As  a Senior, Barker came into the State Meet undefeated.  Going into the race he was thinking he could win.  Instead he learned a lesson on the power of the mind.  About two miles into the race, Barker realized  he wasn't going to win.  His dream shattered, Barker fell apart, not physically, but mentally.  At one point he was passed by a runner who he had beaten in an earlier race that season by over a minute.

Barker finished 17th.  He "barely made it" to the finish, he recalls, because once his goal of winning was lost, Barker lost all motivation.  Physically he was capable of finishing much better, but his mind checked out once he knew that he wasn't going to achieve his goal.  The experience taught him not to invest everything into a single objective.  That once the primary objective was lost, don't give up, have at least a Plan B.  Don't "check out" just because the ultimate goal proved to be out of reach.

Fortunately for Barker, Golden Valley Junior College coach Sev Legred didn't give up on recruiting him.  It as Legred who taught Barker the value of high volume training.  Mega miles.  Prior to each cross country season Legred would take the team to St Croix State Park where they would run three workouts on some  days, running up to 150 miles a week.  Instead of breaking him down, Barker discovered that the high mileage training suited him, allowed him to build the stength that allowed him to outrun some of his teammates who, Barker believed, had more natural talent.

It was high volume training with "speed work" being five minute mile pace, even for interval training sessions where the quarters were done at  5-minute pace.  Knowing ahead of time what it was going to be like, Barker worked up to run his first 20 mile training run in August prior to the training camp.  For the long run at the camp, Legred would drive them  far away from their camp site, and they would run back, a journey that could take up to five hours.

The training camp was  a great team building experience, says Barker.  "We were united in our suffering," he said.  Already lean when he went to camp, he came back gaunt. "My cheeks were hollow," he said.  "I had a slight fever and a headache," he said.  "I didn't run for three days...But I didn't get injured and I improved a lot."

In junior college he competed against a fellow named Beardsley, lapped him in a 10K.  Iowa State coach Bill Bergen came to watch one of their meets. He was recruiting Barker's roommate who was a 1:51 half miler.  Bergen noticed Barker, liked what he saw and offered him a partial scholarship to join Bergan's up and coming program at Iowa State.  In Barker's first season the team placed second in the Big Eight conference, and the training program was radically different than Legred's.

Shorter morning runs and fast interval work.  Some of the mile interval workouts, for example, would have the team's top runners finishing up with 4:20 miles.  For Barker this tempo was more like running a race than a training session, so  instead of trying to keep up with the leaders, he'd do his fastest interval miles around 4:40.  On the other end, he upped the morning runs he did to eight miles.

While he couldn't match their speed, Barker learned that by working on his endurance, he could outrun some of his faster teammates.  It was a valuable lesson in finding out what worked for him and altering his training to fit his strengths, not trying to do speeds or distances that suited others.  Prior to the first NCAA championship meet Barker ran for the team, they watched a video of the famous epic battle between Nick Rose and Steve Prefontaine as that race was on the same course they were running.  It was a two loop layout, and  at the end of the first lap there was Rose, hair flowing behind him, attacking, front running with about a 70 meter lead on Prefontaine.

When they came around the second time, though,  Pre had caught Rose and would outrun him to the finish.  But it was Rose who caught Barker's eye.  The long, flowing hair.  The attacking style.  He didn't win the race, but he captivated the farm boy from St. James.  Inspired him.  That inspiration would motivate him as an athlete and later as a coach, and remains a fond memory to this day.

For 20 seasons, Barker has taken what he has learned from those who taught him, inspired him, and passed on that knowledge to the runners who have gone through the track and cross country programs at Augsburg.  Today Barker moves on to another phase of his coaching life, stepping down from his posts at Augsburg, retaining his position as coach of Team USA Minnesota.  He'll also continue coaching other runners who seek his knowledge and guidance.  And he hopes to do some writing. While one "journey" ends, another begins.

Augsburg press release on Dennis Barker is HERE.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

News Clips

Northfield News article on Waseca's Shane Streich, selected as WCN All Area Boys XC Athlete of the Year is HERE.

MileSplits' girls HS team rankings are HERE, boys individual rankings HERE, girls HERE.

Running Times boys HS team rankings are HERE, girls HERE

Strib summary story on the NXN Heartland Regions is HERE.

Article on formation of the Collegiate Running Association, an organization that is attempting to bring road, trail, and mountain running into collegiate programs is HERE.

Winona Daily News feature on Winona State's Jordan Skelly is HERE.

Woodbury Bulletin story on the East Ridge girls team that qualified for NXN XC Nationals is HERE.

Duluth News Tribune story on the women's Central Region Champions goals for the NCAA DII Nationals and St Scholastica's Chelsea Johnson's accomplishments this year is HERE.

Minnesota Daily story on the Gopher women's ninth straight trip to NCAA DI Nationals is HERE, U of M SID press releas on NCAA's is HERE.

Gopher men's trio earn All Region honors press release is HERE.

St Olaf men's coach Phil Lundin and St. Scholastica's Chelsea Johnson earn USTFCCCA NCAA DIII Region Awards listed HERE.

Fox Sports/North story on Gopher high jumper/basketball player Wally Ellenson is HERE.

MDRA listing of awards--this year's Pat Lanin Distinguished Service Award goes to USATF's Craig Yotter, and the volunteer of the year award to Ann Snuggerood listed HERE

SDSU Collegian story on Todd Lusignan is HERE.

University of Minnesota's Cara Donohue finishes second in individual race, team is 15th in NIRCA Championships. Results are HERE.(women's results come up on this link.  Go to the top of the list and the other races are also listed. U of M's men's A team also finished 15th)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Yes/No: NCAA National Cross Country Meets

As in years past, the final week of 2013 collegiate cross county is also the final week of Yes/No for the year.  We will celebrate these conclusions with three different Yes/No questions -- all worth one point apiece.  All three meets (Division I, II and III) are held on the same day - Saturday, November 23rd.

The overall standings in Yes/No are very close and the long race will be decided with one final flurry.  There are nine players within four points of the lead who all have a shot to at least share the title.  The current standings look like this:

Pat Foley - 24
Lori Anne Schwiesow - 23
Dimitri Drekonja - 23
Chris Lundberg - 22
Bill Miles - 21
Mike Henderson - 21
Daniel Gerber - 21
Mary Varney - 21
Andrew Nussbaum - 20

And the final three questions are... 

Yes/No: Will Trent Lusignan finish in the top forty at the Division I National Cross Country Meet?

Yes/No: Will Jennifer Agnew finish in the top seven at the Division II National Cross Country Meet?

Yes/No: Will Chelsea Johnson finish in the top five at the Division III National Cross Country Meet?

Trent Lusignan is a South Dakota State Junior who ran for Shakopee during his high school career.  Lusignan did not qualify for Nationals in 2012, but finished second in the 2013 Midwest Regional to qualify for Nationals this year.  Lusignan has had a great cross country season, winning two meets and finishing 19th at Pre-Nationals.  If he is able to place in the top forty at the National Meet he will be an All-American in 2013

Jennifer Agnew is a senior from the University of Mary and competed for Onamia during high school.  Her twin sister, Melissa Agnew, has used up her eligibility at the University of Mary, but she capped off her career with a seventh place finish at the 2012 Division II National Cross Country Meet.  Jennifer Agnew looks to be following in her sister's footsteps as she not only qualified for Nationals, but did so with a dominating 19 second victory at the Central Regional meet.  She has won four out of five meets during her 2013 cross country season.

Chelsea Johnson finished fifteenth in the 2012 Division III National Meet, and eight of the women that finished ahead of her have graduated.  Johnson is a senior at St. Scholastica and ran for Chisago Lakes in high school.  Just like Agnew, Chelsea Johnson has won all of her 2013 cross country meets except one, and won the Central Regional by a large margin.

All of the 2013 Regional results are found here:
Division I, Division II, Division III

Information on all of the National Cross Country meets can be found HERE.

To play our game, simply type "yes" or "no" into the subject line of an e-mail and send it to us at DtBFantasy [AT] gmail [DOT] com before 10:00 A.M. CDT, Saturday, November 23rd.  Please put your answers in the subject line of the e-mail and make sure your full name appears somewhere in the e-mail.

My Answer:  No, No, Yes

Last week's contest was the final Pick Ten:  The winner of the weekly award was Patrick Eastman with 46 points followed closely by Daniel Gerber with 45.  The final standings show a close finish and Mike Henderson emerged victorious with a grand total of 233 points.  There was a tight contest for second place led by Patrick Eastman with  220 points, followed by Daniel Gerber at 217, and Bryan Tolcser and Rich Cowles (both at 216).

In the five year history of the Pick Ten contest, Mike Henderson has never finished worse than second place at the end of the year.  The Princeton University Director of Operations wins the 2013 Pick Ten award to go with his 2010 and 2012 titles.

The correct answer to the Photo ID question last week was Van Nelson at the Drake Relays.  Six players got both components of the question correct, while others answered Van Nelson right but did not know the site of the track meet.  The six answers came from Pat Foley, Rich Cowles, Mike Henderson, Jim Glazer, Bill Miles and Chris Lundberg.  As usual, Bill Miles answered correctly first.

This week's photo

I'm a sub-four minute miler.  A three-time All American.  Excelled in both junior college, where I was a national champion, and Division I.  I'm also a member of an select group who have been recognized for my achievements by USATF Minnesota. Who am I?

For all the results, please visit DtB Fantasy Corner, HERE.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Edina Boys Featured in RT

Running Times feature explores the Edina team's win at NXN Region Meet and the long wait to the finals in December HERE.  Also of interest for the college crowd there is a feature on the course where the DI NCAA XC Championships will be held this weekend  HERE.

Bates and Grove-McDonough Receive National Honors

The USTFCCCA Division I Regional Athletes and Coaches of the year announced.  Two of the honorees have Minnesota ties. Elk River High School grad Emma Bates, who runs for Boise State, was named West Region Woman's XC Athlete of the Year, and Gopher grad Andrea Grove-McDonough, who coaches at Iowa State, was named Midwest Region Women's Coach of the Year.

Grove-McDonough's bio is HERE, Bates' HERE.  Full list of USTFCCCA Award winners is HERE.

Monday, November 18, 2013

News Bits

Minnesota Daily story on NCAA Midwest Region meet is HERE.

Interviews on Minnesota participants in .US National Road Race Championships are (Joe Moore HERE, (Kelly Brinkman) HERE, (Mike Reneau) HERE, and (Ben Sathre) HERE.

Medtronic TC 10 Mile women's champ Laura Paulson was ninth at the Big Sur Half Marathon on Sunday.  Results are HERE. Pictures HERE.

Shakopee Valley News story on Trent Lusignan, a Shakopee HS grad who became the first SDSU runner to qualify for NCAA DI nationals since the NCAA competition was divided into Divisions I, II, and III.  Lusignan was second overall in the Midwest Region meet last weekend in Iowa. The story is HERE. And Maria Hauger helped her Virginia team qualify for NCAA DI team competition.  Shakopee Valley News story is HERE. Daily Progress story on the Virginia teams and Hauger is HERE. Hauger was selected as ACC Woman's Freshman of the Year in XC. Pictures of Hauger and the rest of the Virginia team are HERE on the Virginia site. Stats on Lusignan are HERE. SDSU SID story on the team's performance at NCAA Regions is HERE.

Elk River HS grad Emma Bates, running for Boise State, also made "the Big Dance" NCAA DI Nationals by winning the women's individual title in the West Region meet. Boise State SID report on the race is HERE. September Running Times interview with Bates is HERE.

USTFCCCA final DIII National Rankings are HERE. DI Rankings HERE.