2009 Year in Review
It’s that time of year again. It’s the end of another year, which means it’s time to look back and appreciate all the hard work and great efforts that took place during the last 12 months. This article is a recap of the top performances, either in Minnesota or by Minnesotans in 2009. These are the ones that stand out most in my mind. Of course, this is a subjective list and with all the great runners in the state I’m sure I’ve missed a bunch.
Team USA Minnesota’s Emily Brown spent the latter half of 2008 bothered by a sacrum injury. She bounced back in early 2009 as she finished 7th at the BUPA Great Edinburgh Cross Country race in Scotland, finished runner-up at the Emerald Nuts Midnight Run 4 Mile in New York City, and finished 4th at the Antrim International Cross Country in Northern Ireland. Then Brown went on to win her first USA title at the USA Cross Country Championships.
Former Golden Gopher and former Team USA Minnesota athlete, Andrew Carlson, started the year off quickly too. He finished 4th at the USA Half Marathon Championships in Houston when he sped to a 1:02:21 PR. He followed that up with another PR at the Stanford Invitational, running 28:25:86 for 10,000 meters.
Current Golden Gophers where also busy tearing up the track. The teams were exceptionally strong in the middle- and long-distance events. In particular, the following athletes set school records, Championship records, won Drake relay titles, and, most importantly, lead the team to Big Ten titles in both the Indoor and Outdoor seasons; Heather Dorniden, Amy Laskowske, Megan Duwell, Ladia Albertson-Junkans, Elizabeth Yetzer, Nikki Swenson, Hassan Mead, Chris Rombough, Ben Blankenship, and Andy Richardson.
Elsewhere on the track, Burnsville alum Laura Hermanson (now Januszewski) of North Dakota State University won the Drake Relays 800 meter title, finish 2nd at the NCAA Championships, and then placed fifth at the U.S. Championships in 2:01.28. Winona alum and brothers, Garrett and Elliott Heath, were busy running fast times for Stanford. Indoors, the brothers both broke eight minutes for 3,000 meters. Elliott ran 7:53.64 to Garrett’s 7:55.50. Outdoors, they each lowered their 5,000 meter PRs with Garrett running 13:42.27 and Elliott running 13:42.59. Garrett added a 3:37.57 1500 to his resume too, while Elliott earned his first all-American title.
The St. Thomas men's track and field team won their 25th consecutive MIAC indoor track and field title.
Thom Weddle had a busy weekend at the USA Masters Indoor Championships in Landover, Maryland. During the three-day meet he won the 3,000 meter title for 70-74 year-olds and placed second in the mile and 800 meters. At the Outdoor Championships, Weddle was runner-up in the 800 meters in 2:58.73 and in the 1500 in 5:55.40.
Carleton College alum Matt Hooley won the Eugene Marathon in Oregon in 2:18:38. In the process, Hooley, who now resides in Madison, Wisconsin, qualified for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon.
Another Carleton College graduate, Katie Visco, also makes the list. Visco spent the year attempting to become the youngest female to run across the United States. She hoped to inspire people to follow their passion, to empower individuals to connect to what gives them life, and to raise funds for and promote Girls on the Run, a charity that empowers young girls through running. She planned on finishing up by the year’s end. See if she made it by logging on to http://www.paveyourlane.com/.
At the inaugural USA Road Mile Championship, held in conjunction with the Medtronic TC 1 Mile, David Torrence ran 3:59.3 for the win. The sub-4:00 finish earned him a $10,000 bonus. On the women’s side, Olympian Shannon Rowbury clocked 4:33.4.
At the state track and field meet, Harun Abda of Fridley topped the fastest prep runner in Minnesota history, Zach Mellon. Abda defeated the two-time Class AA champ from Buffalo in the 800 meters, 1:52:23 to 1:52:63. Mellon would go on to place second at the USA Junior Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Oregon. As a result he was the lone Minnesotan named to USA Today's All-USA high school track and field team.
Warroad's Moses Heppner, the 2008 Class A Cross Country champ won the 800/1600 double on the track, posting times of 1:55:77 and 4:16:17. His 1600 time put him more than 10 seconds up on second place and was better than this year’s Class AA marks.
Sauk Rapids native Christopher Raabe pulled away from the pack at mile 14 and went on to win Grandma's Marathon in 2:15:13. He became the first Minnesota man to win the race since Dick Beardsley in 1982. In the women’s race, Mary Akor joined Olympic bronze-medallist Lorraine Moller as a three-time Grandma's Marathon champion.
You may remember Jacub Zivec from last year’s cross country season. The Czech exchange student who attended Grand Rapids High School last fall, won the silver medal in the 5,000 meters at the European Junior Championships in Novi Sad, Serbia, running a PR 14:10.58. He also ran 3:46.36 and 8:10.82 for 1,500 and 3,000 meters, respectively in 2009.
Normally, I try to focus this list on distance running. However, when you’re the fastest 8-year-old in the country, I make an exception. That is the case with Jianna Cager who swept the 100, 200, and 400-meter races at the AAU Junior Olympic Games in Des Moines, Iowa.
Three Minnesotans represented the USA at the World Track and Field Championships in Berlin. Team USA Minnesota’s Katie McGregor clocked 32:18.49 to finish 17th at 10,000 meters. In the marathon, her teammate, Matt Gabrielson, finished 36th, while Duluth-native Kara Goucher ran 2:27:48 to finish 10th.
On the roads this year, Duluth residents Jeremy Polson and Jennifer Houck earn Runner of the Year titles. And Jared Mondry was busy setting state age records in 10 of the 14 races he ran. Perhaps the 67-year-olds best performance of the year was his 3:01:56 at TCM. On the women’s side, Janet Rosen managed to set 6 state records.
Heading into this year’s Leadville Trail ultra-marathon, no Minnesotans had run faster than 23 hours. In his first-ever 100-mile event, Tony Kocanda changed that when he ran 21:05:27 to place 16th. He was able to barely hold off his training partner, Joe Ziegenfuss, who was one place back in 21:08:12.
Bruce Mortenson, the St. Louis Park alum who won the 1965 NCAA Steeplechase title, entered the University of Oregon Hall of Fame as a member of 1965 Duck track team that tied USC for the NCAA title.
Perhaps the best performance of 2009 belongs to Team USA Minnesota's Josh Moen. At the USA 10 Mile Championship, held in conjunction with the TC10, Moen gave three-time Olympian Abdi Abdirahman all he could handle before ultimately finishing second, 46:38 to 46:35. On an age-graded basis, Moen’s performance places him squarely among all-time Minnesota greats Alex Ratelle, Dick Beardsley, and Garry Bjorklund.
20-year-old Ilsa Paulson became the youngest winner ever of the Twin Cities Marathon. She ran to victory and the USA title in 2:31:49. Team USA Minnesota’s Kristen Nicolini Lehmkuhle made her marathon debut in the same race and finished third in 2:35:06. Meanwhile her husband, Jason Lehmkuhle, finished 10th at the New York City Marathon running 2:14:39. That time was good enough for 5th place in the USA Men's Marathon Championship held in conjunction with the race.
University of Minnesota junior Hassan Mead won his second straight Big Ten cross country title. In the process he joins Gopher legends Fred Watson and Garry Bjorklund as the only University of Minnesota harriers to have won multiple Big Ten titles. Watson (1913-15) and Bjorklund (1969-71) won three-straight titles.
Eden Prairie junior Aaron Bartnik (Eden Prairie), Marie Hauger (Shakopee), Mubarik Musa (Worthington), and Maddie McClellan won the MSHSL cross country titles.
Alyssa Sybilrud, a Burnsville alum, finished 21st at the NCAA Division III Cross Country Championships and led UW-Eau Claire to their first national title.
There you have it – the top performances and performers from Minnesota in 2009 that immediately come to mind. When you consider all the great Minnesota runners competing in high school, college, professionally, and at road races, you can see that it’s very difficult to limit such a list. Finally, I’d be remiss if I did not thank Charlie Mahler and his “staff” at Down the Backstretch for their incredible coverage of our great sport in Minnesota. Without this website, such a recap would have been exponentially more difficult to compile. If you’re not familiar with the site, please be sure to check it out HERE.