Hastings Starts Out Season with a Win

How do you go about building a program?  What is the best way to recruit?  Are there special keys to winning?  What are some ways a coach can improve himself?

John Dewall has been the Head Coach of the Nordic Skiing teams at Hastings since 1982. The Raiders won MSHSL State Championships in Nordic Skiing in with the Boys team in 1989 and the Girls team in 1991. He also has coached Cross Country as a head coach and/or track & field as an assistant on and off between 1983 up to the present day.  "Both John Dewall and Greg Sandkamp were positive influences on me during my four state championships in high school. I won at least one title in track & field, cross country, and alpine skiing.  Dewall was often there discussing training or life with me." So stated former 9:16 2-mile runner Craig Greenslit, 1988 graduate of Hastings High School. --Sandkamp, the girls head track & field coach, is Dewall's assistant XC coach and they have worked closely together since the early 1980s.--

Dewall has had 2 Olympic athletes in Dan Campbell who competed in the 2002 Winter Olympics Biathlon; and Lindsay Williams who competed in the 2006 Winter Olympics Nordic Skiing. Also, Torry Kraftson won three MSHSL State Nordic, and one XC Running title.  He went on to win the 1997 US National 50K Freestyle Nordic Ski Championship. --Kraftson's head coach when he won in XC running was Dewey Minnaert. -- 

Dewall also has a son who ran for Stillwater, and is currently running for St. Scholastica in Duluth, MN.  Lars Dewall won his first XC race there as a freshman with a time of 21:00 for 4 miles.

What 2 things have helped you improve the most as a coach?

Dewall:  Science has helped me a lot with all three sports I coach.  It would help a lot if all our athletes had a heart rate monitor.  Unfortunately, only a few of our best athletes can afford one.  The best teams in the state require that all their athletes have one.  The other thing that is important is the relationships that you have with your athletes.  My focus is Nordic. But also, these are lifetime sports and high school kids will not reach their peak until later.  I have enjoyed seeing that happen.

What was your summer training like?

Senior captain Luke Harris, who finished 5th at the Cretin Derham Hall Invitational:  I started out running in July at about 30 miles per week and gradually built up to about 50 miles per week by the end of the summer and I did a lot of biking.  I ran 11 miles twice for my longest run.

Junior captain Nolan Myers who finished 6th at Cretin-Derham Hall: I took the entire month of June off and then started to work on base mileage in July.  We had captain's practices starting in mid-July. For long runs, Myers ran 15.5 miles in a race. As a team for captain's practices we met a few times a week.  We averaged about 10 kids per practice.  We even had a few where 16 kids showed up, and those are good numbers considering we have only 23 boys and 14 girls.

Junior captain Linnea Urban, All-State Nordic Skier and top returning runner for the Raiders girls' team:  I did roller skiing through Minneapolis Ski Club 4 sessions a week for 9 weeks; I also ran 15-20 miles per week and included some core resistance training with my body weight.  I also did some upper body stuff but with light weights and high reps. My long run was only about 8 ½ miles but I did try to run at least 3 to 4 times a week which we thought was enough to go along with all the roller skiing which is my focus for Nordic.  BriAnna Amundson, Senior, was recently named as the fourth captain of 2019 Raiders XC.

Eve Lawson 8th grader who finished in 8th place at the Cretin Meet and who is in her 4th year of cross country running:  I roller skied 3 days per week with MSC and I ran in the mornings.  My long run was about 7 ½ miles.

The boys team won the Cretin-Derham Hall Invitational. What was the race plan for that race?

Harris:  We wanted to set the tone for the season.  Going into it we knew we would have to stick together throughout the entire season to hopefully continue that into the conference meet as that's always one of our main goals to win that meet. Nolan and I worked together to try to keep the pack together and it worked out well!  (It did as Harris 5th; Myers 6th; sophomores Tommy Siebenaler 7th; and Tyler Bushinski 8th; all finished in the same time; junior Evan McGinnis was 9th. That top five was within 5 seconds.  Sophomore Xander Smith 12th; and junior Liam Shelhamer 13th rounded out the varsity out of 77 total runners in the boy's division.)

Myers: I'm sure a few of us could have ran faster but there is something to be said about running together because somebody might not be able to hang with the group unless you stay together and encourage each other when it gets tough.  We sacrificed individual gain for team success. Cretin-Derham Hall and I think St. Paul Central had some good runners who kind of led the way, but we felt pretty good about our chances to do well in this meet because of our depth. Winning is always great and it was fun to be on a good team like that.

The girls team finished as the runner-up's in the Cretin Meet.  What was the plan for that race?

Urban:  I have had some problems with colds and lung issues recently.  Dewall wanted me to run about 60% and help the other kids have good races in this first meet for us. (Urban is a 3 X Metro East Champion in the 1600 and only missed the state cross country meet by only 11 spots last season.)

The Raider girls are a young team and have some first-year runners.  However, their upside is strong.

Were there any keys to winning the Cretin meet?

Harris: We had a good week or so putting in fundamental base miles.  We didn't do any hard speed work at all and we had fresh legs and it showed.

How do you think you will do at the Metro East Conference Meet this year?

Harris: St. Thomas and Henry Sibley are the favorites to win it this year, but we are right there with them every year. It's a fun meet but we work well together and because of our depth we have a chance to win it this year.

Urban:  Our biggest rivals are South St. Paul and Henry Sibley. I have a chance to finish in the top 10 at the section meet this year and qualify for the state meet for the first time in XC.  I compete in this sport because I want to be a Nordic Skier in college, and I know that XC is important to get me ready for my main goals 

What has been your best workout this year?

Myers: We warmed up with a 10-12-minute run and then did 5-4-3-2-1 minutes all with a 30 second break between.  The segments were at race pace.  That was one of the best workouts I've done in my life because of the intensity. We also do 30-meter fly's on the track a bit later in the season where we run 100 meters repeats like so: First 30 buildup; next 30 meters as fast as you can go; then the last about 30 meters slow down.

Urban:  I like the 30-meter fly's because they work on fast twitch for the kick in races.  Plus, I like going fast as I run the 400-meter dash in track & field (60 seconds is her best in the 400).  Hills are also great, although they are hard it's kind of a team building activity because you are altogether, and you feel a great sense of accomplishment when you are done.

Lawson:  I like distance runs because you do not have to think about it you just go.  When you do intervals, you must think about when you stop, what your time is, and when to go again.  For distance you can go at whatever pace you want for however long you want.

What makes Hastings XC special?

Both Myers and Harris said that it's a small team and the coaches are great. It's about the relationships you have, and we have good people on this team.  The coaches keep it light and emphasize that it's a lifetime sport.  It's something you can enjoy your whole life and not just in four years of high school.

On the weekends sometimes we get together and play Ultimate Frisbee which is a great team bonding thing and yet it's something that keeps us running too.

Lawson:  The captains and coaches are great because they include everyone, and Linnea leads the warmup before races and she tells us about the course. 

Urban:  We are quiet on the way down to meets but after the meet we play lots of crazy games such as

Truth and Dare or What or the Odds?  One-time last year a girl jumped into the Mississippi River because it was part of the game!  We chat like crazy on long runs too.

What do you like best about your coaches?

Myers: Coach Dewall's stories are great.  Sometimes he can make a one-hour story seem like it was five minutes because they are so interesting. The ones about his cats are the best!

Harris: Both coach Dewall and coach Sandkamp bring positive energy to each practice.  I would not want anyone else to coach our team. 

Urban:  Dewall has been around since I was in 6th grade track & field.  His stories are about both running and life and they change our perspectives. I have him for all three of my sports. There is never a dull moment. We learn a lot and have fun!

Why did you become a distance runner?

Lawson:  Because my aunt was in XC, and because my dad told me I should be in a sport in school.  I have been in middle school XC but after 3 years of that I realized that I needed more of a challenge in this sport.  It also helps me in Nordic.

Urban:  I was in soccer and enjoyed it, especially the team aspect.  However, I did not see myself doing that in the future.  Someone said, "hey, you are in Nordic, you should do XC."  I started running with the guys in 9th grade which was really intimidating but we made it and here we are.  I started Nordic in 7th grade because my grandma had some skis and she told me I should try it.  I would not be here if it was not for Dewall's coaching.

Often the best recruiters on a team are the athletes.  How do you recruit?

Urban:  I mostly recruit off the Nordic teams.  I like all the girls and it's interesting seeing what they can do.  It helps if they are kind of thinking about it already.  Coach Dewall kind of puts the foot in the door for them, then I take them to practice and try to make it fun for them.

What is your race strategy or do change things up nearly every meet?

Harris:  I do something different every meet, but I tend to like to go out fast and get my legs out

under me before I settle into a pace.  But I will also go off what others do.

Myers:  I vary what I do, but with about 800 meters to go I often pick out a jersey and try to gain on them all the way to the finish.  This often enables me to gain on several opponents.

Urban:  I try to plan my race on the way down to the meet.  For some reason that calms me as opposed to doing it the day before the race.  I usually do the buildup method, but around a 1000 or so to go I hear someone cheering for me and that energizes me and gets me going.  Often, I can gradually pass several people.  Our coaches say I have a good kick and the last 200, I really let that go and get the most out of myself.  We sometimes walk the course backwards before the race because that's where the running really starts, and we want to know where the hills and potholes are near the finish. I also like to know where I am going and what turns to make and if there is a lot of debris on the course at that point of the race.

How do the Raiders warmup for a race?

Urban:  First, we do a 10- or 15-minute jog.  That is then followed by a dynamic warmup routine we learned in track & field.  It's shortened a little bit before a race, but we do most of them.  Then we put on our spikes and do a couple of run outs, this is followed by static stretching, then four more run outs from the starting line and we are ready to go.  We know that whether it's hot or cold we need to warmup because although the skin may feel warm, the heart and our other muscles might not be.  But we tend to do a little shorter warmup in hot weather.

Editor's note:  Hastings Craig Greenslit was part of a big snafu in the fall of 1987 when Winona's Scott Morken won the state cross country meet.  Morken was disqualified from the individual title because he qualified with his team during the section meet and not as an individual.  Winona won the team title and Greenslit won individual honors officially.  Greenslit told us that he would love to talk to Scott Morken and give him the state medal for that race. Those rules have now been changed of course!