Last year, on their way to a state championship, the Magic girls cross country program continually showed the importance of depth and balance.
This year’s section meet showed the exact same lesson. Unfortunately for the Magic, it was taught a bit differently.
Despite having two of the top five finishers at the meet, the defending state champions won’t be heading back to defend their title after finishing in third place at the Section 8AA meet.
“We knew it was going to be close,” said Gail Grieme. “We knew it was going to be between three.”
It was close, especially at the top. Moorhead, the winner, and Willmar were separated by just three points. The Magic finished 11 points away from Willmar, and away from advancing.
“It was definitely disappointing,” said Amber Seidenkranz.
“We’ve qualified for so many years,” added Mariah Betzler. “It’s not that we were expecting it… but we weren’t expecting this.”
While this is the first year without a state tournament apperance in four years, Grieme did say that the quality of competition lessened the sting somewhat. Both Willmar and Moorhead joined Monticello as being ranked in the Class AA state polls at the end of the year.
“I think we’re still really a top-ten team,” said Grieme. “That’s kind of the goal for this program. I’d like to be a top-ten team every year, and some years you’ll have the talent to challenge for top-five, top-three and some years win it. But you’ve got to have the talent and the experience.”
Experience is one area this Magic team was lacking in. Graduating three of their top five runners didn’t seem to hurt so bad in the beginning of the year. But as the season wound down, a gap became more noticeable between the top two and everyone else.
Now, it’s up to those two to represent the Magic at the state meet this Saturday at St. Olaf.
Seidenkranz, Betzler advance
Betzler finished third in the section meet, behind a set of twins from Alexandria who are two of the state’s best runners, with a time of 14:46. Seidenkranz wasn’t too far behind, finishing fifth with a time of 15:07. They both qualified to advance individually to the state tournament.
“I’m so thrilled with both of them,” said Grieme. “They’ve had tremendous seasons, and they deserve it because of all the work they do year round. And it’s important to them. They care about doing well.”
Saturday will offer the chance for each girl to build on past state success.
Seidenkranz finished eleventh last year, earning her third All-State honor. But the junior expects even more from herself this time around.
“I wasn’t really happy with how I did last year,” said Seidenkranz. “I’m hoping to improve on that.”
Betzler, meanwhile, said she’ll be happy with whatever she runs, but is looking to improve on a sixteenth-place finish at last year’s state meet.
With the way she has been trending this year, there is every reason to believe she will.
“Mariah is running the best times she has ever ran,” said Grieme. “And Amber is running as fast as she did a couple of years ago.
They are very prepared.”
The girls are both friends and running partners. They’ve pushed each other all year in meets and at practice. Grieme expects that to remain the same this weekend. The girls will aim to chase the twins from Alex, who they’re familiar running against. And most likely they’ll do it together.
“They’ll be side by side the whole way, I’m sure,” said Grieme.
• Other Magic runners at the section meet were: Brooke Rasmussen (19th place), Krista Steele (29), Anna Fasen (38), Patty Bray (40, and Alexa Yeager (63).