Somehow, someway, Monticello battled through layers of challenge this Saturday to win the Maroon (second) division of the Griak Invitational at the University of Minnesota.
See, Saturday afternoon at the Griak invitation is never a walk in the park.
First of all, there are the distractions. A college race in the morning. A big video screen by the finish line showing race highlights. Over a thousand runners milling around.
Secondly, there is the tough course featuring twists, turns and plenty of hills.
Next, there is the competition. Forty-eight teams that the Magic were competing against, to be exact.
Lastly, there was a special element of difficulty this year. Unseasonably warm temperatures producing running conditions of 80 plus degrees and bright sunshine.
But through it all, the Magic prevailed.
Led by Derek Secord’s 11th-place finish (17:27), Monticello cruised to victory, scoring 207 points and beating second-place Elk River by a healthy 27 points.
“The win was pretty amazing,” said Coach Dave Wik. “[The boys] were pretty fired up after that.”
Rightfully so, as they won on one of the biggest cross country stages in the state.
“It’s one of the Minnesota classics that happens during the season,” said Wik. “It really highlights what cross country is and what it can be. To go there and win definitely is a feather in your cap.”
It’s Monticello’s fifth or sixth year going to the event, and they’ve found some success there before.
They run in the second division, as the first is saved for mostly state-ranked teams, as well as some regionally ranked and nationally ranked teams from out of state. But in that second division (made up of 49 teams), the Magic had placed fifth the last two years. This year, they wanted to improve on that.
The Magic wanted to finish in the top three and take home some hardware. Entering the race, senior Colin Lyndorff said they were confident they could do just that. But as the race wound down, Lyndorff and his coach were a little unsure of where they stood. Lyndorff wasn’t thrilled with his sixteenth-place performance, as the senior had perhaps started a little bit too aggressive. He also said that Oliver Winsor came in just a little bit later than Winsor himself had expected.
But with so many teams and different jerseys, Wik said he had no chance of counting jerseys to track where the Magic were.
Turns out they were cruising to victory.
With the help of other guys on the team, we picked each other up,” said Lyndorff. “Derek, he kinda helped pick me up a little bit, that was nice to have.”
It was a luxury that the Magic are getting used to this year. Having Lyndorff, Secord and Winsor so close together at the top has allowed them to not only push each other, but also take turns stepping up for each other.
“That’s definitely important,” said Lyndorff. “Every single race, we’re right there with each other.”
Saturday, Winsor finished 24th. He was followed by Andrew LaVallee who finished in 77th place, and Jacob Wilts, a freshman who stepped up and earned a big 79th place finish for the Magic.
It was the second win in just over a week for the Magic, and it continues to grow their confidence.
“There is nothing that beats confidence this time of year,” said Wik. “The confidence of knowing that, ‘hey, we can be good, and we can race with good people.’ That’s just what the doctor ordered.”