Bill Dellinger, former Head Cross Country and Track &
Field coach at the University of Oregon, and mentor of greats such as Steve
Prefontaine, and Alberto Salazar, has a theory about distance runners not
widely held by other coaches. His belief
is that distance running is dominated by those with talent more than hard work.
Yet is it not true that almost all high school runners turn
out for their sport because they have talent in this area? Certainly the word "talent" has
many meanings too.
Rochester John Marshall's Emma Christensen capped off an excellent career in high school cross country by finishing in fifth place in the Class AA girls 5000 meter race. Finishing ahead of her were the Hasz twins of Alexandria (who finished 1-2 for the second straight year), Claire Boersma of Marshall, and Emma Benner of Forest Lake.
This was Emma's third straight year competing at the state
meet: As a sophomore she finished 33rd,
and as a junior she was 15th.
This was the first year that Emma won both the Big Nine Conference and
the Section Meet, although she was previously the 2013 Big Nine Conference
champion as a sophomore. She was ranked as
high as 3rd in state by raceberryjam.com.
But it is Emma's total career that is overwhelming. She has a sleeve on her letter jacket, with
so many cloth awards, that it looks like it could be used as a hockey goalie's pad. She
will have 17 all-conference awards and 7 all-state awards on that sleeve after
this year's state cc meet. Since the
seventh grade she has lettered three times in hockey, five times in cross
country, and five times in track & field.
Her times have improved every year in CC and track. Even though the distance has changed in cross
country from 4000 meters to 5000 meters, it's easy to see the improvement: eight grade year - 17:13 (6:56 mile pace);
freshman - 15:49.4 (6:22 mile pace); sophomore - 14:37.6 (5:53 mile pace);
junior year - 14:22.30 (5:47 mile pace) in the 4K, and then this year she ran a
17:51.2 (5:44.8) for the 5K.
How does she do this?
Since her sophomore year she has studied training for her summer
training. She develops a plan for the
summer each year. Her training has
evolved from 30 miles per week as a sophomore to 50 miles per week as a senior. She takes things that other people have found
work for them from magazines and the internet.
She is able to use what has worked for her in the past and incorporated new things that make sense. Although she enjoyed what she did, she does feel that there is room for improvement as far as knowing that she is doing the right things.
Emma plans to run in college, although she hesitated to name a favorite. She intends to study something that emphasizes math and science. Perhaps Biomedical Engineering or Medicine is in her future.
She is coached by Pam Davick in both cross country and
track. Mrs. Davick has coached for many
years in Minnesota and North Dakota. She
has had several student-athletes at the state meet including Josie Johnson, the
title winner in 1996 and 1997. Heather
Phillips finished 40th and Josie Johnson 74th in the 1995
state meet too.
Rochester John Marshall is looking forward to track this
spring as they did really well in last year's section meet. Emma's best times are: 800 in 2:26; 1600 in 5:01.39; 3200 in
10:42.49. She can be proud of these
marks, but with Emma improvement seems eminent.
Post-script: Emma ran
at the Nike Heartland Meet, which is composed of teams and individuals from
Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and
Wisconsin. She finished in 13th
place in 17:55.9 in that competition which was dominated by Minnesota
teams. She needed to finish in the top
five to move on to the nationals meet, which is called the Nike Cross
Nationals, with the acronym NXN.
Emma also signed a national letter of intent to attend the University of Utah next year.