When Zack Solinger won the Central Minnesota Conference cross country title in 2001, little did he know he had a chance to tie a long-standing school mark.
After he won it again in 2002, he started to realize he could do what only Steve Faust did from 1973-1976.
As a junior Solinger won the conference meet again, adding to the pressure of becoming the first Pierz runner since Faust to win the title four times.
On Oct. 14, after battling shin problems all season, Solinger began his quest for history.
"Because of my leg problems I took a week-and-a-half off so I knew I was a little behind," said Solinger. "Dave Hahan of Holdingford had beaten me twice before the conference race.
"It started off unbelievably fast and I was feeling pretty good. Then he passed me for 100 yards and then I said, 'No way. Not my senior year. Not on my own course.'"
Solinger's brother, Eli, was cheering him on and it worked as Zack beat the rest of the field by 40 seconds and claimed his fourth CMC title in a time of 16:50.
"It was an awesome race," said Solinger. "To win it four years in a row is great. I'm only the second Pierz runner to do it.
"When I started cross country and won the title, Coach (Rey) Zimney told me I had a chance to do this. After I won it three times, holy cow, I just ran a great race.
"It was the last time I was ever going to run the Pierz course. It was very exciting, a natural high that was hard to come down from."
Solinger didn't have long to celebrate as he placed third in the East Subsection 5, Class 1A race Oct. 19. The senior captain helped his team to second place.
"I think we'll make it to the big show," said Solinger. "I'm very excited about this team. My co-captain, Randy Rauch, and I have been good leaders for this team. We've been pushing them from the start.
"When I was out for that week, I missed the Albany Invitational and the guys still won the race. They did it without their No. 1 runner. That's a big point swing that you usually count on and they still won it without me. That's when I realized, or I knew, the guys were really trying. They could have run a mediocre race, but they won it."
Taking Pierz to state would be icing on the cake for Solinger. He's advanced to state twice, finishing 12th as a freshman and 13th as a sophomore. His best time is 16:10 in the conference meet as a freshman. But injuries have hampered his performance.
"Finishing a place behind my freshman year wasn't really that bad," he said. "I'm glad I still went down there. It didn't crush me. But not making it last year really did. This is my last chance and I'm giving it my all.
"My goal is to win state. I just want to put myself in that situation. It's the last year and I really want to give it my all before I move on to bigger things. You just have to do what you can do."
Other notable performances:
Cross country -- Jonathan Stoltman, Little Falls, won the St. Cloud Tech Invitational in 16:00.
Dan Huebsch, Staples-Motley, won the Mid-State Conference championship in 16:43.
Football -- Travis Dixon, Pillager, rushed for 114 yards and scored a touchdown against Menahga. He added 16 tackles.
Paul Krebs, Little Falls, rushed for 130 yards and a touchdown against Sauk Rapids.
Brandon Laffin, Crosby-Ironton, rushed for 162 yards and a touchdown against Proctor.
Christian Even, Pierz, rushed for 147 yards and three touchdowns against Kimball.
Warren Gall, Pierz, rushed for 182 yards and two touchdowns against Kimball.
Tyler Fisher, Verndale, rushed for 132 yards and two touchdowns against Hancock.
Soccer -- Jason Casillas, Little Falls, recorded 16 saves in a shutout of St. Cloud Apollo. He added 12 saves against Alexandria.
JEREMY MILLSOP can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5856.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.