Ethan Klisch was just happy to be on a team with a good group of guys.
When he found out he advanced to the Class 2A State Cross-Country Meet, the emotions got to him.
“I teared up a little bit,” Klisch said. “I didn’t think that I made it. I knew I wasn’t guaranteed a spot by any means. I knew it wasn’t super out of reach, but I also knew it wasn’t going to be easy to make it.”
Klisch finished 12th in 16:56.6 in the Section 8-2A Championship Thursday, Oct. 24, in Cold Spring.
The top two teams and then the top eight individuals not on either of those teams advance to state. Klisch was the sixth individual to qualify and Warriors head coach Dave Herath said he made it in grand fashion.
“I saw him with about a half mile to go and he was in 17th place,” Herath said. “In that last half mile, he beat out five people. That doesn’t happen in our section that often. We are a very competitive section with seasoned runners. For him to make that kind of move in the last half-mile really speaks to his guts.
“I was showing him after the meet, we keep track of the top 10 times on each course. We’ve run sections there a couple of times so he’s up there with Justin Tyner and Justin Grunewald and ahead of Thomas Ruttger. All those guys were all-state runners and a couple of them were Olympic trials kids. That puts him in real fine company.”
Klisch wasn’t able to train much during the summer because of stress fractures, but the junior’s strength shined during the last half-mile of the race, said Herath.
“They climb about a quarter-mile hill twice,” Herath said. “The second time into the finish. Ethan is just a really strong kid with good form and both times he came up that hill he moved ahead of people. Course wise, I think that was an advantage for him over a kid that hasn’t spent quite as much time in the weight room and isn’t physically as strong.”
Klisch is the first Warrior boy to advance to state since Matt Cherne did in 2016. But state wasn’t Klisch’s goal.
“This year in cross-country, my end-of-the-year goal was to just get a new personal record for myself,” he said. “It wasn’t to make it to state or anything. I just wanted to improve my previous best time by a little bit.
“There were a couple of times where I had some low spots and some better races, but overall with the team and everything, I could see everybody and myself all getting faster and better.”
In the Central Lakes Conference Final Tuesday, Oct. 15, Klisch placed 18th in 17:38.7.
“It was a really satisfying feeling and awesome being able to see I got that much faster with just a little bit of mental preparation,” Klisch said about finishing higher at sections than at the conference meet.
Herath said the time spent between the conference and section meets is focused on mental preparation rather than the physical side of the sport.
“For sure the taper helped,” Herath said. “We spent a lot of time mentally for that big race. The taper part -- physically not much happens in a week's time other than we rest. We just get mentally prepared to stay focused for 16 minutes and 56 seconds and that’s a tough thing for anybody, let alone someone who is racing that hard.”
During the Rocori Invitational Sept. 19, which was at the same site as the section meet against many of the same teams, Klisch posted a 21st-place time of 18:06.5.
“I was just going to try to push myself a little bit harder than I have been, I guess,” Klisch said.
Herath believes Klisch’s time even surprised the junior.
“We tend to taper well to do well at the big meets,” Herath said. “I don’t know that he realized he could drop that much time. He beat 12 kids that beat him just a week earlier. That doesn’t normally happen when you’re at the front end of the pack. He outdid our expectations, too. Not that we didn’t think he was going to run a good time, but to be that competitive against some really good runners was just amazing.”
This is Klisch’s first season with as a Brainerd Warrior cross-country runner. He moved into the district late last year and was able to compete on the track and field team last spring. It will also be Klisch’s first time being at the state meet either as a competitor or an observer.
“I just want to go there for the experience and run the best race I can,” Klisch said.
Other notable performances
Davon Stuckey, football, rushed for 101 yards and a touchdown against Sartell.
Karli Anderson, volleyball, finished with 10 kills and three blocks against Bemidji.
Delaney Schaeffer, volleyball, finished with seven kills, five blocks and one ace serve against Bemidji.
Sport: Cross-country running.
Career highlight: Being with a good team this season.
Other sports: Track and field and Nordic skiing.
Favorite class: Math.
Favorite movie: Fast and Furious series.
Favorite website or app: craigslist.org.
Future plans: Undecided.
Parents: Tina and Luke.