It was only a matter of time.
Brainerd Warriors freshman Madi Miller slowly and steadily worked her way up the ranks of being a top cross-country runner and she proved by qualifying for her first-ever state meet.
Miller ran a seventh-place time of 20:03.7 Thursday, Oct. 28, in the Section 8-3A meet at Fox Hollow Golf Club in St. Michael, to qualify for the Class 3A State meet scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 6, at St. Olaf College.
The top two teams and the next six individuals not on those teams advance to the state meet. Miller was the second individual not on St. Michael-Albertville’s or Bemidji’s roster to cross the finish line.
“I was pretty confident,” Miller said. “We had been going over all the steps and everything before it. I went in feeling pretty confident that I could make it to state one way or another.”
The other way would have been as a team and Miller was hoping that was the case. The Warriors finished fourth, however, closely trailing Moohread and Bemidji for the second-place spot.
Miller played her role in helping the team to perfection.
“My role was just to stay in front of the lead Moorhead girl and try to pass as many people as I could to help the team,” Miller said. “I was so excited at the end to see that I had beaten more and I had done more than I was planning on doing and that I thought I could do. That was very exciting.”
CP: "She’s right at the front of our pack. She mixes it up with a lot of our boys. She was set to take off.”
— Dave Herath
Brainerd head coach Dave Herath said between the regular-season Invite held at Fox Hollow and the section final, Miller dropped a minute and a second, but he wasn’t surprised.
Miller, however, was. She ran a 21:04 at Fox Hollow back on Sept. 13. She was hoping to break 20:30 last week. Instead, she ran 20:03.
“She ran, I wouldn’t say unbelievable, because I kind of make my predictions and she was a second off of where I thought she would be,” Herath said. “I predicted that she would have a great race.
“She just ran lights out. Madi’s job was to stick her nose in that top 10, top 12 range and then keep moving up and she did that perfectly. She finished 14th the first time we ran there against the same teams and she moved up to seventh place. You start running out of runners you can catch when you get that high up in the standings.”
Miller led the Warrior girls at the Central Lakes Conference Championship Oct. 19. She ran a 15th-place time of 20:03.8.
Miller’s ascension up the Warrior ranks reached its peak at the Ranger Invite Oct. 7 at Cuyuna Rolling Hills. Miller placed fourth overall to lead the Warriors to second. She ran a 21:08.3 on a grueling, hilly course. But it was the first race this season where she led the team.
“She’s always been right there,” Herath said. “We had such a good leader in Hannah (Drietz) and we all wished that she could have had the race that we hoped she could have had at the section meet, but she wasn’t feeling great and for Madi to step up as she did at Crosby was when Hannah first started having back issues. Madi stepped into that role and just continued. A lot of it goes to having those older teammates and everybody being OK with that.
“Madi works hard every single day. She’s right at the front of our pack. She mixes it up with a lot of our boys. She was set to take off.”
Miller said the section course was a hard, slow course, which she hopes translates into a quick state time. While she’s never been to the state meet or seen the course, she feels like she’ll be ready.
Her goal is to break 20 minutes, but more importantly to run her race and have fun doing it.
“I’ve heard that it’s mostly flat, but there are some hills so I just know that I need to go out harder than I have been because the first mile and a half is mostly flat so I’m just going to go out harder and then attack the hills knowing that I will almost be done after the hills.”
Miller will likely be repeating sentences in her head to keep her mind focused and looking to pass the next person in front of her until the end. That mental approach has worked all year and it might come from being from a running family. Both Miller’s parents, Casey and Christa Miller, are marathon runners and her brother is right there with the family.
“She’s coming into her own,” Herath said. “We’re in a very, very tough section with the state’s No. 1 ranked runner and actually, I think she’s the 10th-ranked female runner in the U.S. She’s been up against very good competition and I think that’s what helps you run mentally tough. The challenge for Madi is not having her full team with her and that is a little bit different.
“Having the boys team there will help. They are all a pretty tight-knit group.”
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 855-5856 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jeremymillsop.
Other notable performances
Meghan Smith, volleyball, finished with 13 digs, nine kills and two blocks against Moorhead.
Thomas Ruhl, Adam Cady, Braden Capelle, Michael Howe, Bennet Capelle, Nolan Thiesse and Ben Stadum, boys cross-country, advanced to the Class 3A state meet with a second-place finish in the Section 8-3A meet.
Nathaniel Staehling, football, rushed for 117 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries against Minnetonka.
Izzy Olson, swimming and diving, won the diving competition with 407.35 points at the Central Lakes Conference Championships.
Mya Tautges, swimming and diving, placed second in the 100-yard freestyle to earn All-Central Lakes Conference honors in the CLC Championship.
Career highlight: Celebrating with my teammates and feeling good about my races
Other sports: Track and field
Favorite class: Math with Mrs. Marcelo
Favorite food: Fruit or ice cream
Favorite movie: “The Sound of Music”
Favorite TV show: “Outer Banks”
Favorite website or app: Snapchat
Favorite restaurant: OMC Smokehouse
Favorite athlete: Eliud Kipchoge, Olympic marathon runner
Parents: Casey and Christa Miller