For the fifth straight year, yes, fifth, Amber Seidenkranz will represent Monticello at the Girls Cross Country State Meet.
Seidenkranz, a senior, has qualified for the meet every year since her eighth grade season.
In her final high school season, she wasn’t about to stop the streak. Seidenkranz ran to a fourth-place finish last Thursday at Detroit Lakes, advancing with ease to the state meet which will be held at St. Olaf College this Saturday.
Seidenkranz, who completed the course in 15 minutes and 12 seconds was happy with her performance at the meet.
“[Fourth] is what I was going for,” said Seidenkranz, about the loaded section meet. “Fourth is like first for us normal people. The first three people, they’re just so fast. No one else can catch them.”
Those three, two sisters from Alexandria and a girl from Bemidji, all finished well under 15 minutes and will be expected to compete for top five finishes at the state meet Saturday.
Seidenkranz, who paced herself by trying to keep the leaders in her sights, finished a solid seven seconds ahead of the fifth place runner.
“I was really happy with how I ran,” added Seidenkranz.
She wasn’t the only one. Coach Gail Grieme was excited with the way her star performed in such a star-laden meet.
“I was very proud of her,” she said. “This is old hat for her; but it was a very tough section field. She did an excellent job.”
Seidenkranz will now begin preparing for the fifth and final high school state meet of her cross country career.
She has earned All-State recognition in each of her four previous appearances at the meet, with the highlights being top ten finishes in 2009 and 2010. The last two years she just missed out on the top ten, finishing 11th when Monticello won the team state championship in 2011 and 12th in 2012.
This year she’s got her mind set on getting back.
But to accomplish that, she is going to have to adjust to different circumstances. After making all previous state meet trips with either the full team, or at least one other teammate, Seidenkranz will be the lone Magic entrant this year.
“It’s going to be way different. I’m going to be starting with random people in a box that I don’t know,” she said.
Plus there is the typical adjustment of competing against an entire field of elite runners, where you need to bring a balance of humility and confidence.
“You’re taken out of your normal meet where you’re used to being one of the top two,” said Seidenkranz. “Now you’re thrown in with the best in the state. But you still have to have that certain amount of confidence.”
Her coach believes, with good reason, that Seidenkranz will be up to the challenge.
“There are a lot of good runners there, but she is one of them,” said Grieme. “She’s very focused and knows what she wants. She knows how good she is and she can accomplish great things in this last high school meet.”
Grieme also added that regardless of how the meet turns out, it is fitting that Seidenkranz will end her career at the state meet, representing the program she has meant so much to.
“It is so fitting for her,” she said. “She’s done so much for our program. She deserves all the good that happens to her.”
The Class AA Girls State Meet is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. Saturday at St. Olaf College.
Team finishes fifth
The team knew that it would be a close race as they aimed for a top two finish and a return to the state meet. But it would have been impossible to predict just how close it ended up.
The Magic finished in fifth place, but just seven points back of second place, as they came up just short of qualifying for state.
“It was tough,” said Grieme. “We knew it would be close. But it is still tough missing by that few of points.”
Willmar scored just 53 points to win the meet going away. But after that, it was a jumble of teams. Bemidji came out on top, scoring 99 points to secure second place and a spot at the state meet. After that it was Moorhead with 101, Alexandria with 103 and Monticello with 106.
Grieme said it was the closest section meet she remembers being a part of.
Monticello was led by Seidenkranz’s fourth place finish, but each runner turned in a strong performance. Mariah Betzler finished 13th, coming in with a time of 15:38, just missing an individual state bid of her own. Brooke Rasmussen finished 27th, while the trio of Patty Bray, Krista Steele and Anna Fasen continued to close down the gap they’d been whittling away at all year. They finished 30th, 32nd, and 34th, respectively. Alexa Yeager finished 39th for the Magic.
“I’m very proud of them. They approached the course very positively and they were ready to race,” said Grieme. “It just didn’t happen for us that day.”
Contact Clay Sawatzke at email@example.com