Warriors Athlete of Week: Trip to state reward for Brainerd runner
While battling a health issue, Matt Cherne was one of the Brainerd Warriors' top runners in 2015.
A thyroid condition eventually sidelined Cherne, causing him to lose pounds he couldn't afford to lose, and forced him to miss Central Lakes Conference and Section 8-2A meets.
For the most part, Cherne has been healthy this fall, missing just one meet, and has been the Warriors' No. 1 runner on his way to qualifying for this weekend's state meet. He won two meets and finished in the top 11 of every race in which he competed.
"Matt was a real big factor on last year's team until he wasn't feeling well," Warriors coach Dave Herath said. "We graduated a lot of senior guys he was close with. Matt was one of several senior guys who picked up this year's team and helped mold it into a cohesive group.
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- Sport: Cross country running
- Year: Senior
- Age: 18
- Height: 6-0
- Career highlight: Qualifying for this weekend's state cross country meet
- Other sports: Track & field
- Grade-point average: 3.2
- Favorite class: Human Biology
- Favorite food: Mac and cheese
- Favorite movie: "Elf"
- Favorite TV show: "How I Met Your Mother"
- Hobbies: Camping
- Future plans: Probably attend Minnesota-Duluth, hopes to run, possibly major in finance
- Favorite runner: Former Olympic track star Steve Prefontaine
- Parents: Kristin & Derrick Cherne
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"We try to set up practices so it's challenging for everybody. Matt was a little ways ahead of the rest of the guys. For him to be mentally ready every day, and be able to push himself and meet the goals we set up for him at practice, that was huge. That's not always easy to do. That's a lot of perseverance for a senior guy. It's nice he got rewarded with a trip to state."
Cherne clinched a state berth with an 11th-place finish in the section meet Oct. 27 at Little Falls Golf Course, running a personal-best 16:36.82. He became Brainerd's first male state competitor since 2009.
"I was pretty excited, honored to be in a group of (Brainerd) boys that have made it to state," Cherne said. "I've always looked at old records. I've always wanted to be part of that."
Cherne said his plan for the section race was to follow Herath's three goals: Relax, respond and race.
"I relaxed the first mile, but yet I stayed competitive," Cherne said. "Toward the beginning, I was probably in about 30th, but I made my way up. Then I was consistently around the 9-10-11 range for the remainder of the race after the first mile. I really focused on the second mile and being competitive, not backing down."
Cherne credited a group of junior varsity teammates for letting him know where he was in regard to running a state qualifying time.
"A bunch of JV guys were scattered throughout the course," he said. "They were constantly telling me my place. I knew where I had to be to qualify."
Herath said Cherne "took care of business" at the section. The coach expected Sartell and Bemidji to be the top two teams—they tied for the team title—and he thought both schools had a few runners faster than Cherne. Herath figured a top 12 finish would qualify Cherne for state.
"Right from the start Matt was in that lead pack," Herath said, "then they lost a lot of (runners) as the race went along. Matt stayed in that top 10-12 the whole way. He looked real comfortable. The pack spread out a little bit the last mile. Matt never fell below what his goal was.
"It was a textbook race for him, his best ever, so he PRd. He dug in his heels where he needed to be, didn't let up that position, and obviously it was a great race for him."
Cherne's victories this fall were Sept 8 at the Pequot Lakes Invite and Oct. 6 in the Ranger Invite at Ruttger's Bay Lake Lodge.
"I had never won a race before so that was pretty exciting," Cherne said. "We like to race the Pequot Lakes guys. It's fun to race them. We match up pretty well against them."
He started his postseason push with an eighth-place finish in the Central Lakes Conference meet at Blackberry Ridge Golf Course in Sartell.
"I've never been all-conference before," Cherne said. "From not even running at sections last year, it was nice to see the improvement."
Other notable efforts:
• Katie Streiff, swimming, won two individual events and teamed with Hannah Tatge, Jamie Wallace and Madelynn Gibbons to win the 200 free relay at the CLC meet.
• Charlie Geraets, football, rushed for 104 yards in the Section 8-5A semifinals against Sartell.