First of all, how did you first start running?
When I was in elementary school, I was that kid that would spend all of recess running laps so that I could be a part of the little run club they had. Plus, I always loved running the mile in gym and several gym teachers had mentioned that I should join cross country. However, the true reason I took up running is because my dad asked me to go for a run with him one summer day. We got going and I asked him "Is this walking fast or jogging?" and he told me to go ahead. He always brings that story up, but it is funny because I have not looked back since that day.
What are all your personal records, including cross country?
4K (xc)- 14:01.70
5K (xc)- 17:59.90
Do you do, or have you done, any other sports?
I dabbled in a little bit of everything, but I played basketball up until 9th grade. I loved basketball; however, there is a higher risk for injury and I decided to put my focus on running. I am thankful for having played basketball because I believe my competitive racing attitude can be largely contributed to it.
What is your favorite or most memorable competition you've ever been in?
My favorite memory of competing is from 8th grade at the State meet prelims. I nearly broke the State record, but I had no idea what I had done. I had so much energy and I went out and ran a 2:10. Everyone was so excited for me, but I was just shocked. It sparked a realization that there are no limits; you are capable of much more than you think.
Other than your own teammates, who are some of your favorite athletes to compete against?
I love competing against the Farmington girls (Lauren Peterson and Anna Fenske) because they are young, but their hearts are full of passion for the sport. They give it their all every race and it pushes me to perform my best, too. I also loved being pushed by the Hasz twins of Alexandria, but they will be gone this year. I will miss them. Additionally, I have always been a friendly rival of Anastastia Korzenowski of Chanahhasen. We race each other a ton and she is in my grade so we have always battled it out through the years. Ultimately, we make each other better and I value that.
What is a challenge you have faced in your athletic career?
The biggest challenge I have faced is going through an injury. I trained very hard last winter and found out that I had a stress fracture in my tibia right at the start of last track season. It was a long, hard recovery. I missed my whole track season, but I was lucky enough to return for cross country. My family, specifically my dad, was so supportive through the entire thing. Moreover, I had to have faith that God would help me return. That season I started off as the fourth runner on my own team, but with hard work and perseverance I came back to get fourth at the State meet. My passion for running is stronger than ever now and I have learned so much about nutrition, recovery, and training. I know that no matter what challenge I am facing I can have faith that God will get me through it.
Who are some people that have been most helpful to you in your athletic career?
First off, I have to give credit to God for my gift to run, the strength to get better, and for putting the people in my life who have helped me reach my goals. I have to admit, so many people have helped me reach my potential. My family has been my biggest support group, especially because running is such a mental sport. My dad is a huge sports' fan and probably my biggest fan, too. He is always doing little things for me that help me get an edge on my competition. Plus, he constantly pushes me to be my best. My parents, friends, grandpa, grandma, and siblings are at almost every race cheering me on. I am especially lucky to have the support of my sisters, stepmom, and aunt. My aunt (Ashley Cookas), who runs marathons and instructs yoga, has been a wonderful role model and mentor to me. She gives me both emotional and physical advice that gets me to the next level. Finally, I cannot thank all the coaches and trainers enough for pushing me to be my best. Jeff Wachter, Lauren Bristol, and many other coaches have trained me faithfully through the years. Strength coaches Dave Hauger, Bronson Shepard, as well as several others have given me strength and knowledge to push through anything.
You've been a very good runner for a long time. How have your perspectives, strategies, or attitudes changed since you first started running varsity in 7th grade?
When I was in seventh grade I was Maria Hauger's shadow. I looked up to her and strived to be as successful as her. I knew very little about strategy or running in general. I used to get on the track, follow the pack and give my all at the end. I am blessed to have foot-speed. Now that I am older I will be working hard to pace myself in races and take the lead when possible. I am preparing for college level racing where foot-speed might not be enough to win. One thing has certainly changed and that is my passion for running. You never know how many opportunities you will get to race, so it is important I give my best effort every race.
Your first two years with Shakopee, you got to run with the legendary Maria Hauger. What was it like as a young athlete to have her on the team, and then be the one to "replace" her (so to speak) as the team's star runner?
Like I just mentioned, I started off my running career as Maria's "shadow." I looked up to her; she was my running idol. I am so lucky to have been able to compete with her and learn from her. Her dad, Dave Hauger, was even my strength coach and I can not thank him enough for the edge strength training has given me on my competition. It was a big transition when Maria left. She gave me the opportunity to step up as leader. I started to win more races, but I had to learn to develop my own racing strategy. Every meet it is my goal to score as many points as possible to help lead my team. They can count on me to give my best effort every race and therefore they go into their races with the same attitude. I think beyond helping my team score at meets I have also been given the chance to share my knowledge of the sport with my team. My teammates come to me with their questions, their concerns, or simply to ask for advice. I love being able to help others grow and become the best athletes they can be.
What are your main goals for this upcoming track season?
I have a lot of goals this season especially because I missed all of last track season. I want to break my PRs in the mile, 800, and 4x4. If I can break the mile PR then I also have a chance to break the State record, which would be great. My biggest goal is stay healthy. If I can stay healthy then great things will happen.
Do you have any college plans?
I will be running for Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas this upcoming school year. I will run cross country as well as indoor and outdoor track. I am so excited, because after a very long search I found a perfect fit.
What were some of the things that attracted you most to Southern Methodist University?
Southern Methodist University came to me by fate. My dad stumbled across the university and got in contact with some of the runners and the coach. We did research on the college and I loved the academics (specifically the business school), the athletic program, and the location. Ever since I was in seventh grade I dreamed of running in the South. Plus, I have seven siblings that I want to be able to visit as much as possible. It is relatively affordable to fly between Minneapolis and Dallas. However, one of the biggest factors for choosing this school can be contributed to the coach and my future teammates. I instantly hit it off with them. I know I will be both happy and challenged by the individuals that will be competing with me. I can not wait to be a Mustang!!!
Do you have any rituals, routines, or superstitions either on or off the track?
I tie my shoes about a 'million times' and need at least 9 hours of sleep before any major race.
When not running miles or running on ovals, what might we find you doing?
You might find me spending time with my family. I have four brothers and three sisters that I love dearly. I also manage my dad's restaurant, Pizza Plus, in Belle Plaine. You might even find me at Core Power Yoga because yoga is my new addiction.
How did you gain an interest in yoga?
My aunt, Ashley Cookas, is a yoga instructor so I have known about yoga and dabbled in it throughout the last decade or so, but this winter I became a member at Core Power Yoga. Both my aunts pitched in and bought me a month membership for my birthday. Ever since my stress fracture I have been looking for ways to prevent injuries. Yoga has allowed me to improve my flexibility, running form, and overall mental and physical health.
Tell me one bizarre fact about yourself.
I am 5'11 and about the same height as my dad. I used to hate being tall, but now I embrace it. You only get one body and I am blessed with the one I have, so I use it to my advantage.