Over the past five years, girls cross country in Minnesota has improved at a frenetic pace. The leaders are getting faster, certainly. But most amazing has been the progress of the pack. More and more girls are running times that once contended for state championships.
Some runners have gotten left behind during the five-year sprint. Amber Seidenkranz has not.
In a changing landscape Seidenkranz remained a model of consistency throughout her high school career, and she capped that with a school record fifth All-State performance at Saturday’s Class AA state meet.
The senior finished 22nd with a time of 14:46. Five years ago, during Seidenkranz’s first state meet, that time would have earned her a fourth place finish – just five seconds off the championship pace. Even more telling about the rising talent level in cross country is that Seidenkranz’s time in 2009, which earned her tenth place, would have put her in 47th place this year.
“It’s amazing how fast [runners] are now,” said Seidenkranz. “[The talent level] has shot up like a rocket.”
But Seidenkranz shot up right with it, never falling behind the pack, including at Saturday’s state meet.
With four meets under her belt, Seidenkranz toed the starting line knowing how important it was she get off to a quick start.
Then, she tripped, slightly, but enough to cause worry. Fortunately, within steps she heard the starter gun going off again. There had been a false start.
“I got a second chance,” said Seidenkranz.
The second time went off without a hitch. Seidenkranz started fast, getting into the all-important front pack.
Normally, that pack dwindles over the course of the state race, with a couple of elite runners distancing themselves and then the rest of the top ten spreading out from the rest of the field.
This year, not so much.
The tenth through 25th runners in the race stayed packed together for much of the course.
“There has never been a pack of that many girls that can run that fast,” said Seidenkranz.
It made the senior’s job tougher, as passing becomes a chore in a large group.
Because of that, she knew she had to take advantages of the chances she had. One of those came when climbing a big hill near the two-mile mark.
“I had started to get tired in the middle,” said Seidenkranz. “But I hit that hill harder than I ever had. I caught a few girls going up it.”
From there, she held on over the final half-mile stretch, pushing herself up the final hill at a sprinter’s pace, even though there was hardly anything left in the energy tank.
“This is my last one, I might as well [sprint],” she said of her mentality at that point.
It was worth the effort, she came in a few places inside of the All-State cut line (top 25), making her the first runner in school history to earn five All-State honors.
“It just shows how consistent she’s been,” said Coach Gail Grieme. “She’s consistently been a top runner in the state. It’s a big honor.”
Seidenkranz finished the race in front of multiple runners that entered the meet ranked in the top ten of the state. And she finished just ten seconds behind tenth place. It was plenty good enough to leave her satisfied with the final meet of her high school cross country career.
“I’m happy,” she said. “Very happy.”
The total of her accomplishments, namely her five straight All-State performances, leaves Seidenkranz knowing she’ll miss this level of competition, but also ready to move on.
“It means a lot, it’s awesome,” she said. “I just feel so accomplished. I feel like I’m not leaving with any regrets.”
Her coach, of course, is much more likely to regret having to give the senior away to college next season.
Grieme said Seidenkranz, who owns one of the top four times in the history of Monti girls cross country, will without a doubt go down as one of the best runners in the program’s history.
“She’s just been so successful, at the highest level, year after year,” said Grieme.
The Class AA individual meet was won by Bethany Hasz of Alexandria in a time of 13:53.
Hasz, along with the second and third place finishers, Megan Hasz from Alexandria and Jenna Truedson from Bemidji, hailed from Monticello’s section.
Contact Clay Sawatzke at email@example.com