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Memories of 2010 propelled Schmitz

Photo by Brian Hansel Emma Schmitz, Neil Janson and WDC Head Coach Terry Olson worked this week on preparing Schmitz for her first Class A state cross country meet.

The wind beneath Emma Schmitz's wings last Friday rose from her performance in the 2010 Section 8A cross country meet.

"I didn't want to finish one away again," Schmitz said.

The top 10 individuals advance to state competition and Schmitz found herself placing 11th at the Twin Pines Golf Course last year.

Like most first-time qualifiers, Schmitz is both nervous and excited about her trip to St. Olaf College for the state cross country meet. Schmitz has only been out for cross country since the seventh grade but her time in last Friday's section meet was the best of any freshman in the 105-runner field. Schmitz ran a fourth place time of 16:02.10 but like the top three finishers -- Park Rapids' Lydia Lutz, Warroad's Gretta Brunelle and Lake of the Woods's Victoria Alexander -- she is capable of a time in the 15-minute range.

WDC's Neil Janson, who closed out his prep career with a 24th place finish in the section meet, considers his young teammate a "dang good" runner who does not give up.

Cross country runners get one shot at what they are trying to achieve in a race. There are no breaks once the gun sounds. Any mistakes they make during the race they have to run through. Janson entered the season as WDC's most experience harrier and yet in his second meet of the season on the Whitetail Run Golf Course north of Wadena, he miscalculated with his start and could not finish the race.

"It's easy, it happens," Janson said, with a snap of his fingers.

While cross country is as mentally challenging as any sport, a runner has to listen to what their body is telling them before and during a race. They have to gauge their final kick for the finish line as perfectly as possible. Schmitz believes she "left it all on the course" last Friday at Bagley - her third such performance in a row. Schmitz ran sixth in her final regular season meet at Park Rapids and was runner-up at the Mid-State Conference meet in Staples where she earned all-conference honors.

There is one other way WDC runners know how they are doing in a race.

"For me, it's how Terry is screaming at you," Janson said with a grin.