For Anna Gessell, the battle wasn't the distance or the competition.
The Brainerd Warriors junior's main opponent was her own body.
After three years of nagging hip injuries, Gessell ran pain free and the result was a runner-up finish in the season-opening meet Thursday at Northland Arboretum in Brainerd.
Gessell's 16:25 trailed only Alexandria's Jamie Piepenburg, last year's Class 2A third-place finisher, who ran a 15:04.
"I was pretty confident that I would do fairly well, but I was nervous because this is one of my first races back from being injured," Gessell said. "It was really nerve-wracking but I felt good."
The Brainerd Warriors girls' cross country team started out in a pack during Thursday's meet at Northland Arboretum. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls» Purchase reprints of this photo.
Warrior coach Dave Herath was happy to see Gessell back competing. He said a lessor athlete would have given up the comeback a year ago.
"She loves the sport and she loves to run," said Herath. "I expect to see some big things out of her as she continues to get back into the swing of things.
"I talked to Anna after the race and she said she stayed with (Piepenburg) until almost the mile mark before she got hot and things started to fall apart, but she said her lungs felt fine. That's pretty good for someone who hasn't raced at that level in two years."
Gessell, a three-time state runner herself, hasn't had much to cheer about the last few years. She was just pleased to be back competing.
"It's really nice," she said. "I've been dealing with hip problems for over three years now. It just felt really good to be back with the team and to be able to finish a race and not have any pain.
"It was really rewarding to just be able to practice with the team the past couple of weeks. It's really nice to get back into the race."
Brainerd's Anna Gessell ran to second place in Thursday's season-opening cross country meet at Northland Arboretum. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls» Purchase reprints of this photo.
Warriors following Gessell were Rebecca Yeh, who ran a fifth-place 17:17, Michaela Quast's sixth-place 17:31 and Gretchen Kletscher's eighth-place 17:46.
Abby Selisker rounded out the top 10 with her 17:57, which helped Brainerd to first place.
"After Anna our next three really had some nice races," said Herath. "Rebecca and Michaela dropped about a minute from their time last year and Gretchen was close to a minute. We were missing Megan and Courtney Wing, who had college classes and couldn't get out of them, so we threw in a couple of eighth-graders and were really surprised.
"Abby Selisker, that was her very first race ever. She had never run cross country before so for her to break 18 minutes on that hilly course is great. Then Maria West finished 11th with a good time and that was impressive."
Girls' cross country
Key: Five Warriors finished in the top 10.
Next: Brainerd at Bemidji Invite Sept. 11.
Team scores: 1-Alexandria 29, 2- Brainerd 31, 3-St. Cloud Tech 87, Pillager inc.
Individual winner: Jamie Piepenburg (Alex) 15:04
Brainerd: 2-Anna Gessell 16:25, 5-Rebecca Yeh 17:17, 6-Michaela Quast 17:31, 8-Gretchen Kletscher 17:46, 10-Abby Selisker 17:57, 11-Maria West 18:10, 17-Amanda Finstad 18:40
Pillager: 7-Shauna Mauer 17:39, 23-Tess Ruhl 22:16
Brainerd JV results: 3-Sarah Fairbanks 19:20, 4-Chelsie Manton 19:20, 7-Allison Reither 19:36, 8-Lydia Herath 19:40, 9-Rachael Howard 20:22, 10-Sarah Yeh 20:30, 12-Laura Huss 20:46, 13-Jordan Hulsether 21:28, 15-Karlie Manton 21:44, 16-Brigitte Johnson 21:58, 17-Maria Comeau 22:15
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