Berg has good showing at state meet

New Prague High School sophomore Maria Berg placed 60th of 174 runners at the State Class AA girls cross country meet Saturday, Nov. 2, at St. Olaf College in Northfield.

Berg completed the 4,000- meter course in 15 minutes, 16 seconds.

"Maria had one main goal this season, and that was to qualify for the state meet," said first-year Trojan coach Shawn Brandt. "She accomplished that goal by running smart and consistent races," he said, noting that her time at state was the same time she ran at the Section 2AA meet a week earlier.

"We talked to her before the race about needing a fast, but steady start. When you toe the line with 174 of the best runners in the state, you don't want to get boxed out by a huge pack on the first turn," Brandt said. "She followed the plan perfectly. Maria's strategy was to stick with the top runners from Section 2AA for the first two miles. At that point, use the adrenaline rush from the crowd as you come out of the woods and fight through the 3 minutes of pain in the last 800 meters."

Brandt said she passed two runners down the finishing stretch; one spot behind the Section 2AA second place finisher.

"It is not easy to run well at a State Meet; especially your first one. It's even more difficult when you qualify as an individual. Without teammates on the course, everything is different. After Sections, you may have teammates who are still practicing with you, but you are the only one who is preparing for competition."

Brandt noted that individual qualifiers expect to place in the top 10 at most meets during the season, but at State, most of the runners run very similar times.

"It takes a lot of confidence to stay focused and believe you can race with the best in the state. When the race is over, it also takes a lot of maturity to put everything in perspective and be proud of your accomplishments.

"Maria placed seventh in Sections, and ran the exact same time at State and placed 60th. If she only focused on place, it would be easy to be disappointed; so you have to look at all the factors.” Brandt noted that Berg finished with a pack of 20 girls, and that only 10 seconds separated finishers 43 to 63. "That's two runners finishing every second for 10 seconds"

He said Coach Nick Meyer (Trojan boys coach) and he were very proud of Berg's performance. "Natural talent combined with a great work ethic, positive attitude, leadership, and passion for crosscountry helped her reach her goal."

The coaches also noted that there was a large contingent of supporters for Berg at the State Meet, and that helped to inspire Maria. "It made a difference and was greatly appreciated."

Overall, Alexandria’s Bethany Hasz claimed her first cross country title, beating her twin sister, Megan, by 20 seconds.

Wayzata won the team title with 34 points, easily outdistancing second-place East Ridge by 97 points. Wayzata had all five runners finish in the top 10 in team scoring. Section 2AA champion Chanhassen finished fourth.

In the boys race, Wayzata's Connor Olson placed first and led his team to a firstplace finish.

Annandale, from the Wright County Conference, won the girls Class A meet. Emi Trost of Cannon Falls, who won the New Prague Invitational on September 24, claimed the girls Class A title. Perham won the boys Class A title, with the Hornets' Keegan Hurly claiming medallist honors.