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Two-time state qualifier Emma Schmitz is looking for improvement Saturday as she competes in the Class A cross country meet on the campus of St. Olaf College in Northfield. Schmitz placed 82nd in the race last year. Photo by Brian Hansel

Olson credits WDC state entry with great endurance

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Wadena-Deer Creek sophomore Emma Schmitz will be running in her second straight Class A state cross country meet Saturday at St. Olaf College in Northfield.

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What sets the petite harrier apart from the pack?

"I would say it's her endurance," veteran WDC cross country coach Terry Olson said.

It might be difficult for some to believe that Schmitz rates such a tag, but Olson points out she has the perfect size and build for a harrier. She is also gaining experience every time she answers the starting gun.

"She's an efficient runner, there is not a lot of wasted motion," Olson said.

Olson considers Schmitz to be a good example of an athlete who shines because of her dedication to her sport.

"People don't think distance runners are athletes because they think of athletics as basically ball sports," Olson said. "Consequently, a lot of people who aren't good at ball sports don't think they're good at anything. If they try it, they find out. In distance running, you have to stick with it."

Schmitz approaches a race with the idea of letting another runner set the pace. When she is able to gauge their stride, she can set her own.

"You learn how to run," Schmitz said.

Schmitz placed 82nd in last year's state meet with a time of 16:19.9 She qualified for this year's state meet as the section's sixth finisher with a ninth-place time of 16:08.

The challenge for Schmitz on Saturday at St. Olaf is a simple one.

"I want to get a better time than I did last year," Schmitz said.

While Schmitz will not again grapple with the surprise of seeing so many people at state, she will wrestle the tough climb that challenges all runners as they head for the finish line. It is a hill exactly where a tired cross country runner does not want to see one.

Ten of last year's 16 state-qualifying teams are back for Saturday's race. Blake School's Clare Flanagan is back to defend her state title. Runner-up Emi Trost is also back. Flanagan and Trost ran times of 14:21.1 and 14:34.7 in the 2011 meet.

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