Cross-country: Storm boys build momentum
Before the North Shore Storm cross-country practice Monday evening at Two Harbors High School, coach Dan Hebl sat down the team to talk about Saturday’s state meet.
The Storm boys won the Section 7A meet Oct. 26 at Cloquet Country Club for the first time. Hebl wanted to calm nerves the young team had about the biggest meet in which some of them have ever competed.
Hebl reminded the team of what happened the first time he qualified for the Wisconsin state meet as a sophomore. Instead of his usual pre-race breakfast, Hebl ordered three eggs over-easy, hash browns, oatmeal and a bagel.
“I had $11 to spend, and I spent it all,” Hebl said with just a hint of pride.
His first time at the state cross-country meet didn’t go as well as he hoped, however. He eventually qualified for a couple more state meets, where he performed much more to his expectations.
He warned the kids to not take the opportunity for granted.
“Enjoy the experience,” he said. “There’s no guarantee you’re going to go back.”
The team won the section meet after Jake Paron finished second and Noah Smith placed fifth.
Paron and Smith have consistently been in the top five at North Shore meets throughout the fall. Both qualified as individuals in 2016. Will Surbaugh, a Cook County student who just missed qualifying in 2016, has provided a third solid runner for the Storm this season.
The key, however, to North Shore’s emergence as one of the better teams in the area has been due to the development of sophomore Brendan Seipke and freshman Isaac Swanson.
The pair emerged as solid fourth and fifth runners for the Storm. Swanson finished 15th at the section meet and Seipke was 18th, securing a solid victory over second-place Greenway.
Swanson’s performance was a surprise after he started the season in a walking boot — the result of breaking his toe in soccer over the summer. Swanson was a member of the 3,200-meter relay Two Harbors team that qualified for the state track meet in June, but with the late start and an injury, his status was uncertain.
“We knew he was a good athlete from track, but we didn’t know how it would translate into cross-country,” Hebl said. “In the back of my mind, I thought this guy could be pretty good if he can get healthy. That just kind of happened and they kept improving.”
The team really started to hit its stride at the Swain Invitational in Duluth’s Enger Park on Oct. 7, when the team unexpectedly won the Swain, beating out powerhouse Esko.
Hebl said he believed the team could do even better because he knew Seipke had eaten a couple of Hot Pockets for breakfast.
“I had one Hot Pocket, Mr. Hebl,” Seipke corrected.
The boys went on to take the Polar League title Oct. 11.
Seipke and Swanson seemed to get off to a slow start at the section meet. After about three-fourths of a mile, the pair was mired in the pack somewhere around 70th place. It may have seemed slow, but the pair set a good pace and worked their way through the field.
“It seems like we keep the same pace,” Swanson said.”Everybody else goes out fast and we just slowly pick them off.”
Paron, who is headed to his fourth-consecutive state meet, also likes the strategy of starting slow and reeling in runners in front of him.
“I don’t like to go out too fast,” Paron said. “I like to go out slow and work my way up because the momentum builds.”