Geyen, Carlson earn all-state cross country honors

Sommer Carlson (front, left) and Halley Geyen (front, center) earned all-state honors at the MSHSL State Cross Country Meet, while Andrew Schonnesen (back, center) also competed, earning 111th place out of 176 runners. They are pictured with coach Nikkie Christiansen, head coach Ben Youngs and coach J McClelland.


Even though there was a sense of familiarity heading back to the 2013 Minnesota State High School League State Cross Country Meet, there were some elements that made it a unique and memorable day. After a season of record-breaking performances, it was fitting to end the 2013 season with even more records set, including not only Maple Lake’s first ever all-state cross country finisher, but it’s second, too, in the same race.
Last season, the Irish set a school record by sending three athletes to state in the same year: Senior Greg Dorow, freshman Sommer Carlson, and eighth-grader Halle Geyen. This year that record was equaled, with Carlson and Geyen qualifying again, along with first-time entrant Andrew Schonnesen.
After a sendoff of high-fives by the high school and elementary student bodies on Friday, the athletes and coaches headed to St. Olaf College in Northfield to practice on the course.  
“This allowed the girls to reacquaint themselves with the course and for Andrew to see it before his race,” coach Ben Youngs said.  
Spirits were high and the mood was light as they bumped into familiar runners, ran a light workout, joked around, and listened to some encouraging words from guest speakers at the cross country social.
Since class AA ran the morning races, the Irish waited as patiently as possible for their chance to run with the best in the state. It was a crisp but pleasant day, with temperatures in the high 40s and brilliant sunshine when the girls warmed up for their race. Despite knowing the routine because of qualifying the previous year, it was apparent that some nervousness was setting in as the race approached. However, the girls did not let this hamper their performances, and they actually seemed to be able to use it to their advantage. 
“Before the race I just kept telling myself I am lucky enough to be here and I just want to place better than I did last year,” Geyen said.
Both girls were able to get out to a fast start. At the first mile, Carlson (5:46) and Geyen (5:52) were well below their personal-record paces, which is typical at a high-caliber meet. As they crossed the two-mile mark, they were running next to each other and just under the magic number 25 spot which would designate them as all-state runners. Geyen was able to surge past a pack of runners on the final hill. 
“During the race, I just looked at all the people screaming, something that you don't see every day. And I just kept trying to motivate myself to pass the next group of girls,” Geyen said. 
Carlson held her position, sprinting down the final stretch and preserving her all-state status.
A year ago, Carlson finished 77th and this year she was 24th out of 176 runners.  Not only that, but she bettered her time from last season’s state meet, dropping from 15:58 to 15:31. 
“After the race I felt satisfied with how I ran," Carlson said. "Achieving All State was a goal of mine during this race and I am very happy that I was able to achieve it. If anyone would have told me a year ago that I would improve this much from last year I probably would have laughed. I never thought or believed I could ever achieve All State, and I could not have achieved my goal without my coaches, teammates, family and friends by my side. They motivated me to keep giving my best and to work hard throughout the season.”
For Geyen, this year had her placing 17th as compared to 47th last year, and her time dropped from 15:40 to 15:25. 
“My goal for the state meet was to improve from last year’s place, and to know I moved up 30 places is still something I can't believe," Geyen said. "I think going for the second time I kind of knew what to expect and how everything works which helped me perform better.”
More information appears in this week's Messenger.
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