State Cross Country: Flyers' Moore hoping for fast first mile
State cross country Who: Brainerd's Meritt Miller, Little Falls' Tyler Moore, Pequot Lakes boys team What: Class 1A and 2A state cross country meet When: 2A girls - 10 a.m.; 2A boys - 11 a.m., 1A girls - 1 p.m.; 1A boys 2 p.m. Where: St. Olaf Col...
State cross country
Who: Brainerd's Meritt Miller, Little Falls' Tyler Moore, Pequot Lakes boys team
What: Class 1A and 2A state cross country meet
When: 2A girls - 10 a.m.; 2A boys - 11 a.m., 1A girls - 1 p.m.; 1A boys 2 p.m.
Where: St. Olaf College, Northfield
Much of Tyler Moore's season has been dedicated to one mile.
That one mile will happen Saturday at St. Olaf College when the gun fires for the start of the state cross country meet.
The Little Falls Flyers senior, along with Brainerd's Meritt Miller and the Pequot Lakes boys team will compete in the four race state event. Moore will compete first in the Class 2A boys race. And that opening mile will be the guidepost for the rest of Moore's 5K race.
"He realizes that he has to be out near a five-minute mile to be in the pack that he wants to be in for the start of the race," said Flyers head coach Jeff Massmann. "It's very important to be at that five-minute mark for the opening mile and then see what the day brings for you."
Last year, the day brought a 36th-place time of 16:11.3 for Moore. This year's goal is to land in the top 25 and dip under a 16-minute 5K. Massmann said Moore's best time this season on a comparative course is 16:20.
Moore finished fourth in the Section 8-2A meet with a time of 16:26.88.
"His legs were tired going into the section meet yet and I thought we rested long enough, but he was tired," said Massmann. "We've backed things off a little bit more as far as mileage. We have picked up on the speed work to get him used to that fast start."
With a state run under his belt, Massmann believes Moore will be calmer and less nervous to better attack that opening mile.
"You start to realize there are no surprises and it's not as nervous as sometimes these athletes make it out to be," Massmann said. "That first time can be pretty intimidating, But he enjoys running against competition up into his area. I talked to him (Tuesday) morning and he seems very eager to get on with the race."
Class 2A girls
Meritt Miller finished 13th in the Section 8-2A meet, but where that puts her statewide may surprise some.
The Brainerd Warriors' junior has not run a race where she has not competed against a ranked opponent. More often than not it's been defending state champion and state runner-up Megan and Bethany Hasz of Alexandria. Bethany Hasz won the state title in 2013.
"We're in arguably one of the top sections in the state so you really don't know where she's at," said Warrior head coach Dave Herath. "We just set goals for her to break 19:20 down there and whatever place that puts her that's what it will be. Top 25 is all-state and that might be a little much for her first year, but if she can break 19:20 we'll take what we get."
This is the first year the girls state meet will be 5 kilometers so there is no past reference to where 19:20 might land Miller. She ran a 19:32 at sections, under soggy and wet course conditions. Herath believes a firmer course and the state meet atmosphere will translate into a 12-second drop.
To help battle the nerves of a first state appearance, Miller's teammates and coaches are doing everything they can.
"We'll go down the day before and we have our traditions and our routines," said Herath. "We'll stop about halfway and the kids go for a little run so we'll do that. They get to preview the course on Friday and all week we'll take a section of the course and we'll describe what it looks like. We do this visualization where we work through a third of a course at time and try to visualize the course. That's easy when you've been to the course, but when you haven't it's challenging.
"As far as being relaxed, we do all kinds of goofy things. We have a "Go Ape at State" monkey. Every kid that's ever gone to state for us gets to sign it so she gets to carry that around to feel special. It's the "All-about-Meritt" week so we got a little terra for her. We just do goofy things that embarrass her and yet make her feel special at the same time."
Herath said the state course doesn't pose any tricks or anything Miller hasn't seen during the regular season. He said the Roy Griak Invitational at the Les Bolstad Golf Course at the University of Minnesota is a more challenging course than at St. Olaf.
"I don't think the pace is going to be anything she hasn't already seen and done," said Herath. "She likes to get out fast, which is a benefit at this meet because you can quickly get swallowed up in the pack and working your way through it can be difficult. We've had goals of trying to find girls that she has run against in our conference and section and picking ones that are maybe just a little bit faster and running with them. That's a good way for Meritt to strategize, particularly for being her first year down there."
Class 1A boys
Pequot Lakes returns to the Class 1A state meet for the first time since 2008 and the third time in program history. Each of the other two trips Pequot finished third overall. Pequot Lakes head coach Jeff Brever isn't putting any pressure on his young squad to repeat those finishes.
"We know it's the top 16 teams in the state and we're just looking to compete and put our best foot forward and wherever we finish we'll be happy with," said Brever.
All of Pequot's runners will be state meet rookies, but the young Patriots squad will have some state meet savvy to pull from in Brever, who was a two-time individual state champion although the course has changed from when he won his last state title.
"They did switch the course this year," Brever said. "I did have some of the guys come in and we talked about it. We discussed some things about where the hills are, the start, the corner and how we have to get out fast depending on what lane we're in. We just talked about how starts are going to be. How the ump is going to fire his gun. We've been talking about a lot of things. I'm just trying to prepare them the best I can since I have been there. I do have a little experience so I'm just trying to give them every benefit I can give them."
Sophomore Reid Pierzinski has developed into the Patriots' No. 1 runner with junior Tony Fitzer right on his heels. The two finished seventh and ninth in the section meet. Eighth-grader Max Johnston placed 18th, junior Jacob Tschida was 21st, senior Levi Palmer finished 32nd followed by Junior Cody Huss in 36th place and senior Cam Boller in 44th.
Marty Fitzer, who was hurt for the section meet, will be back in the lineup for state.
"We had practice Saturday morning and put in eight miles to just try and put in a little more base again," said Brever. "Now we're going to work on our speeds. We are doing 200s right now and working on our starts and finishes. Just trying to get that leg turnover."
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 218-855-5856 or firstname.lastname@example.org . Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jeremymillsop .