Sioux Falls, South Dakota
November 11, 2012
The road to Portland was met with single-digit wind-chills in Sioux Falls, South Dakota today at the Nike Heartland Regional Meet.
Weather extremes were not going to stop two of the nation’s best high school cross country runners from blasting away from their respective fields to capture individual titles as pre-race favorites Maria Hauger (Shakopee, MN) and Jake Leingang (Bismarck, ND) were both clearly the best on the day.
US#14 Maria Hauger defended her Nike Heartland crown and will make her fourth straight appearance at the Nike National Meet on December 1st in Portland, Oregon. Hauger is no stranger to cold weather- or big wins for that matter. Hauger won the Roy Griak Invitational earlier this season by five seconds over Alli Cash of Shawnee Mission West (KS) and has won the state meet for the last four years in Minnesota.
“I prefer warmer weather, but I just went with it. I really tried to go hard on the parts that were with the wind and it worked out,” said Hauger in reference to the tough conditions at Yankton Trails Park.
With a dominating performance at the Heartland meet, Hauger’s goals for the Nike National Meet is clear.
“Top ten, that’s what I really want. This is my fourth year at the Nike Nationals and I feel like I’ve never had that great of a race there, so hopefully I can just run good in that mud.”
The state of Minnesota dominated the meet; adding to Hauger’s individual title were two NXN qualifying teams in Wayzata and Eagan. The team race itself, actually wasn’t even close. Wayzata ran away with the meet, scoring 122 points ahead of Eagan at 206, the “Ultimate Warriors” at 217 and Hartland Cross Country ended up gathering another fourth place finish.
Individually, Hauger was trailed by Clare Flanagan (17:50.53), Stephanie Jenks (17:58.59, 2nd last season and #24 US), Anna French (17:59.05) and Bethany Hasz (18:00.99). Allie Cash was sixth in 18:15.33.
There was no doubt entering the “whoop-de-doo’s” after the first quarter-mile, that Jake Leingang (US #7) of the Bismarck Demons was going to win his first Nike Heartland Regional title. Leingang, who won his North Dakota State meet by almost a minute, set the course record on a day when most were simply trying to beat frostbite.
“Knowing conditions weren’t the best, the plan was just to go out pretty fast and then see how I was feeling,” remarked Leingang, who was around 4:44 at the mile.
Leingang must have been feeling pretty good, because at the mile mark, he held a seven second lead over the chase pack. One of the primary cogs in the Bismarck’s cross country domination in North Dakota over the years, Leingang was all about “team” when talking about goals for the Nike National Meet.
“The main goal was to get there (Nike Nationals) as a team. When we get there, we’d like to get top five as a team, that would be the main goal.”
Bismarck, second in the team scores at the two mile mark, closed well and ended up winning the meet with a score of 102 to out-lean Dowling Catholic (IA) by 11 points. Dowling Catholic was second (113) followed by the Edina (131) and Stillwater (135) teams out of Minnesota.
Bismarck and Dowling Catholic earned the automatic bids to NXN.
In the biggest surprise of the meet on an individual basis, Fremont’s Danny Aldaba, who did not even win his state meet, punched his ticket to NXN with a second place finish. Following Albada in the top five were Obsa Ali (15:31.28), Eric Colvin (15:32.02) and Ryan Kromer (15:32.30).
The national qualifiers from the Heartland meet will have three weeks to prepare for the the Nike Cross Country National Meet.
Full results, including the national qualifying teams and individuals from the Nike Heartland Regional Meet can be found at PT Timing’s website http://www.pttiming.com/page/show/65867-race-results.