Magic duo runs with the best, ahead of the rest

Mariah Betzler and Amber Seidenkranz sprint to the front of the pack during the opening stage of Saturday’s race. (Photo by Clay Sawatzke)
Mariah Betzler and Amber Seidenkranz sprint to the front of the pack during the opening stage of Saturday’s race. (Photo by Clay Sawatzke)

At the state cross country meet, you have to get out fast, or you might as well not go at all.
“It’s always super fast, and you’re out of breath before the 400 [meter mark],” said Amber Seidenkranz.
Fortunately for Monticello’s runners, Seidenkranz and fellow junior Mariah Betzler, they were both experienced and talented enough to get out fast.
Their quick start was maintained throughout the race as Betzler finished ninth with a time of 14:24, and Seidenkranz finished 12th in 14:29.
Both finishes easily qualified as All-State. Betzler was also honored with a medal for finishing in the top ten.
“I’m extremely proud of them,” said Coach Gail Grieme, a common refrain from her when discussing these two runners.

Seidenkranz (left) and Betzler pose after the awards ceremony. (Photo contributed)
Seidenkranz (left) and Betzler pose after the awards ceremony. (Photo contributed)

“It’s just amazing. It’s incredible.”
For Seidenkranz, the race represented consistency and skill that has rarely been matched.
The even keeled Seidenkranz seemed to stay in a similar position for most of the 4K. That kept her in a similar position for the fourth straight year as well.
Her 12th place finish marked the fourth time in as many years that she has finished in the top 13 at the state meet.
She started with a tenth-place finish as an eighth-grader. As a freshman, she jumped all the way up to sixth. Last year, she was 13th.
Interestingly, her times have continued to drop (42 seconds between her eighth grade year and this year), but her place has not.
“Runners are becoming more and more dedicated to the sport,” said Grieme.
“And it shows in the times. More and more kids can run in the fourteens now.”
But while Seidenkranz has slid in place a bit, her ability to stay near the top has been an impressive feat in what tends to be a rotating cast of characters.
“I was happy,” said Seidenkranz. “It wasn’t exactly where I wanted to be. But, looking back at the big picture, I’ve been consistently up near the top ten for the past four years. I think, a lot of girls come and go, they’re up there for two years, then they drop out and you don’t hear about them anymore.”
Seidenkranz’s consistency was matched Saturday by Betzler, who has consistently improved over the last couple of years.
After an All-State finish her freshman year, she just missed repeating last year. But she has shot up the leaderboard at races throughout this season, so her top-ten finish at state was hardly a surprise.
“She’s just been a steady performer,” said Grieme. “Every year she’s gotten faster. She’s such a hard worker. Doesn’t show the nerves. She’s in such control all the time.”
Betzler was more than in control during Saturday’s race though. She was flying. Her time wasn’t just good enough for All-State, or even just for the top ten. It was also a Monticello school record.
“That’s just really cool,” said Betzler. “It’s fun to think about.”
Seidenkranz’s time, which was also a personal best, comes in as the third best in school history (behind her older sister Erica). Making their accomplishments even more impressive is that they accomplished it on a course that really provides a challenge.
“It may not be the easiest course, but the people pushing you with all the competition evens it out a little bit,” said Betzler.
Indeed, it pushed the girls to an incredibly fast start. From there, their condition, speed and determination pushed them to times previously unseen by Magic runners.
And as juniors, Grieme doesn’t believe we’ve seen their best yet.
“I think those two could really pull those times down even further next year,” said Grieme. “Because of their hard work and dedication to this sport, they are so deserving [of their times].”