Eskomos lead locals in a packed Swain InvitationalHearing Marisa Shady improved her time at the Swain Invitational by 40 seconds in a year’s time, you’d think Esko’s defending state cross country champion would be a sure pick to be the runaway winner. She took third.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
Hearing Marisa Shady improved her time at the Swain Invitational by 40 seconds in a year’s time, you’d think Esko’s defending state cross country champion would be a sure pick to be the runaway winner.
She took third.
It was a grueling field of competition at Saturday’s 61st Swain Invitational at Enger Park Golf Course in Duluth, as 2,626 cross country runners took the starting line in 12 different races.
“It was loaded with talent,” said the junior Shady of the Class A field of girls racers Saturday. “There was a lot of good competition.”
Shady, the third-ranked runner in Class A in Minnesota, finished third with a 4,000-meter time of 15 minutes, 6.9 seconds, trailing top-ranked Clare Flanagan of Blake and Ladysmith’s Andrea Ostenso, who placed 10th last year at Wisconsin’s Division 2 meet.
Following Shady was fourth-ranked Elena Danielson of top-ranked St. Cloud Cathedral, which won both the Swain girls and boys titles
“It was nice to see all of that competition in our area,” Shady said, finishing atop Saturday’s local field of runners. “Usually, we don’t see that until we get to state. I love the big meets.”
Both the Esko girls and boys squads are ranked in the state. Saturday, the girls placed third and the boys sixth, but it was the challenge that proved to be most beneficial for the Eskomos.
“I ran 40 seconds quicker this year than last year,” said Shady, who has won two of her four races this fall. “It was fun to run with people who pushed me. I was able to gauge where I’m at.”
Jackson Lindquist agreed.
“I started out kind of with them and tried to hang in there,” said the 12th-ranked Esko senior who finished the boys 5,000-meter race in eighth place with a time of 16:45.1 to lead all local runners. “It was nice.”
Watching from the sidelines, Jerry Zimny said the annual weekend was even top-notch to witness as a coach.
“Some of the top runners and teams from the state were there,” he said. “We don’t just enjoy it as coaches, but the kids enjoy it, too. They like to see where they can stack up.”
Esko has stacked up just fine in their biggest meets this fall, as both teams climbed within the top-five at the Milaca Mega Meet two weekends ago, while they both were well inside the top-10 at loaded Swain.
Other Eskomos posting team points at Swain included Kailee Kiminski, Karli Kulas, Erika Shady, Olivia Rengo, Joey Johnson, Ben Hanson, Matt Rengo and Ben Mattinen.
That individual and team success most
recently has the Esko girls ranked fourth in the state polls; the boys sit at eighth.
“Rankings are nice for the sport, but the kids know they are just rankings,” said Zimny. “They don’t feel any pressure.
“You look at them and say ‘Oh,’” Zimny continued of the state rankings. “But the only one that matters is in November.”
Zimny was hinting at the state meet, where his state veteran Eskomos will be the likely favorites to advance come this fall’s postseason races.
For the girls, Shady said it’s their depth that will lead them.
“If one of our top five goes down, we have six, seven, eight right there to fill in,” she said. “We’re very strong and focused on getting our times down every single race.”
As for her own title defense, Shady isn’t thinking too far ahead.
“I want to do my best to help my team win that state championship,” said Shady. “We’ll see what happens at the end of the year.”
Lindquist though, is keeping things in perspective for the boys.
“We’re all working hard and getting a lot of miles in,” he said. “We have a lot of good competition. It’s not going to be a cake walk, that’s for sure.”
Just like at Swain.