STAPLES -- Don't ask the Staples-Motley cross country and track and field teams what a summer vacation is because the runners probably don't know.
Nearly every day this summer the long-distance runners have been practicing at 8 a.m. attempting to better themselves for the fall season. To gauge their improvement, they decided to try out for the USA Track and Field Junior Olympics.
Apparently, the work paid off as seven distance runners and a pole vaulter will make the trip to Sacramento, Calif., to compete in the National Olympics Tuesday through July 29.
"We did this last year for cross country," said Brittany Brenny. "We found out about this through our coach (Gene Mattila)."
In order to advance to the nationals the group of Cardinals participated at the state meet at Hamline University June 23-24. At the meet 11 athletes advanced to the Region meet July 12-15 at Madison, Wis. From there eight advanced to California.
Dan Hubsch and Chad Brever advanced in the steeple chase while Brever also advanced in the 1,500- and 3,000-yard runs. At the regional meet Brever won the 3,000 with a time of 9:24.98. He finished third in the 1,500 and second in the steeple chase. Hubsch finished third in the steeple.
"There was nobody entered in the (steeple chase) so Chad and I just hopped in and advanced."
The steeple chase involves five laps around the track jumping over hurdles and a water hazard.
"At the region meet there was only three more guys," said Brever. "So we didn't just run with our age we ran with the young men group. It was kind of nice to have them so you could pace off them.
"It's a fun race, but it's hard."
The top three individuals and relays advanced to nationals which meant Liza Milless, Hannah Landecker, Courtney Robinson and Kelsey Griffith advanced in the 4x800 relay. The team finished third with a time of 10:43.32.
Griffith also advanced in the pole vault with a second place effort of 9-feet-0.
Beau Pilgrim also advanced in the pole vault. Remarkably, Pilgrim didn't start vaulting until the middle of last spring.
"I was surprised to make it," said Pilgrim. "I went up about three feet so I've been advancing my heights."
Also qualifying was 14-year-old Brenny. She placed third in the 1,500 with a time of 5:06.14. She also was fifth in the 3,000 and fourth in the 800 run. Brenny and Landecker made it to the Class A state track and field tournament last spring.
All the qualifiers range in age from 13-15, yet all were either on the varsity cross country team, track and field team or both.
"It will be tough," said Brenny. "You have to run the race of your life practically if you want to do good. At Regions you had to be determined to get in the top three.
"It was a different race at state. In the two mile I knew I was going to be in the back of the pack because all the girls times were really fast and all the girls were older. At this meet we're running with our age group."
Making the trip to Madison but not qualifying for Nationals were Leighton Griffith in the Bantam Boys division. He placed ninth in the long jump. Josie Pilgrim was also ninth in the long jump for midget girls and Charlie Farber was 10th in the 3,000 and 14th in the 1,500 in the youth boys.
The first event at the Nationals is the steeple chase and for Huebsch and Brever that means they'll be leaving on Monday while the rest of the group will arrive on Wednesday.
"The way we've been practicing I think we'll be ready for it," said Brever. "I think we'll be physically and mentally ready for Nationals."
If you would like to help sponsor the trip or an athlete contact Al Griffith at (218) 894-1881.
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