A lot of factors – sunshine or rain, warm or cold, windy or calm – may change yearly at the Monticello Cross Country Invite. But one thing has remained the same for six straight years. The winner.
Led by three top ten finishes, the Monticello girls cross country team captured yet another victory on a warm day at Vintage Golf Course.
Amber Seidenkranz (15:21) finished third and Mariah Betzler (15:28) was fourth as the seniors won their sixth Monticello Invite in as many tries. They had plenty of help, with fellow senior Brooke Rasmussen (15:43) finishing eighth, Krista Steele (16:40) coming in 15th and freshman Alexa Yeager (17:05) rounding out Monticello’s top five with a 20th place finish.
“It’s really important [to win the Monti Invite],” said Coach Gail Grieme. “We usually have a lot of fan support at that meet, so it is one of the meets we really like to do well at.”
It was just Monticello’s second race of the year, and their first full 4k. They were coming off a fourth place finish at a two mile race in Rosemount the prior week. Overall, Grieme was pleased with the way they looked, despite less than perfect conditions.
“I was happy,” she said. “The times overall, both boys and girls, weren’t as fast because of the weather. It’s not the fastest course in the world either. But that doesn’t matter when it all comes down to placing.”
Total, the Magic tallied up 50 places. That was 13 spots ahead of Marshall, who finished in second place with 63 places. St. Michael-Albertville had the top two individual finishers, including winner Rachel King (14:47), but finished in third place as a team with 101 points.
On a day where Monticello’s fifth runner medaled, Grieme was most pleased with the packing of her varsity runners.
“I think our spacing between one and three is at a decent point right now,” said Grieme. “I think it will even improve as the season goes on. With four to seven, we’re working on that being tighter, but it definitely already is [tighter] than last year. So that is encouraging.”
In Betzler and Seidenkranz, the Magic have two state-ranked runners. But cross country truly is a team sport, and last year two individual stars weren’t enough to drag Monticello to their team goals. In response, the Magic have significantly strengthened the team around those two, through dedicated summer workouts and lingering disappointment turned to motivation.
In Rasmussen, the Magic have found a third go-to runner, someone that can be counted on to chase after Betzler and Seidenkranz, as well as pull the rest of the pack forward. And Grieme expects the marathon runner to keep getting better in these relatively short distance races.
“She’s closing the gap,” said Grieme. “I’m so proud of her. She’s working on the short speed; she already has so much endurance. The more speed work she will do the rest of this season, it’s only going to make her faster.”
And the rest of the team continues to show improvement following one of the best summers of training that the sixth-year seniors have seen.
“I know a lot of girls have worked harder this summer than in the past so they’re already past the point where they started last year,” said Seidenkranz. “So they have less catching up to do during the season.”
That work allows the second half of the team to push toward the front. At the front, Betzler and Seidenkranz continue to push off each other to help better themselves and their team.
“It’s easier to run,” said Seidenkranz, about having a teammate to compete with and run next to. “Because you have somebody there to help you, push you.”
“And because it’s a teammate, it’s not like there is any pressure,” added Betzler.
Speaking of pressure, the girls claim they didn’t feel much on their way to defending their home invite for a sixth straight time last Thursday.
“We just do what we always do,” said Betzler. “We’ve done it so many times, it’s just kind of routine.”
The Magic will look to continue their winning routine Friday when they head to Lakeville North for a competitive meet, scheduled for 3:30 p.m.
The girls are back in the area Tuesday when they run at Big Lake Liberty Elementary School. That meet begins at 4:15 p.m.
Contact Clay Sawatzke at email@example.com