As a seventh-grader, Jenna Dean burst upon the Brainerd Warriors cross country scene.
In the 2003 Class 2A state meet at Northfield that year Dean was the Warriors' top finisher in 33rd place.
Brainerd didn't qualify an individual or team in 2004 before returning in 2005 and 2006. Dean was the team's top finisher in 2005 (49th) and second-fastest last year (40th).
She was diagnosed with diabetes last year but appears to have the disease under control as she heads to the state meet Saturday at St. Olaf College. The junior was runner-up in the Section 8-2A meet last week, helping Brainerd to the team championship, and has been Brainerd's No. 1 or No. 2 runner all season.
She agrees her diabetes has been under control this fall but it remains a concern.
"Races are so much different than practice for blood sugar," Dean said. "I check myself like 10 times before a race to see where I'm at. Blood sugar of 70 to 110 would be ideal. After a race I'm up to 280 to 320. It affects me in races, but you just have to dig down deep and keep going.
"It's mental toughness and don't quit. It's a little bit of a hassle to deal with, but you just have to overcome it."
Warriors coach Dave Herath said dealing with Dean's diabetes has been a learning process.
"It's a lot of self-monitoring," he said. "Apparently, every kid is different, how they react to insulin and different foods. It's really been a couple year process getting to the point where she can run consistently.
Sport: Cross country running
Weight: 110 pounds
Other sports: Track and field
Memorable sports achievement: Member of 2003 state team that finished second
Grade-point average: 3.9
Favorite subject: Chemistry
Favorite food: Yogurt, Cheerios
Favorite TV show: "Ugly Betty"
Future plans: Attend college, run
Athlete she admires: University of Minnesota swimmer Mark Solfelt
Parents: Judy and Dan Dean
"She hasn't always felt great at every meet, but it's nothing like last spring when she had ups and downs. This year has been pretty consistent. Last Thursday was the best she's felt."
Herath said Dean has missed a few practices because of diabetes but would run at night to make up for it.
"She can't do some things the other kids can," he said. "It's all trial and error. Jenna and her mom and dad do a lot of journaling, what happens after doing this and that. I'm thankful they do that. It's helping her with the success she's having this year."
Dean finished the section race at Detroit Lakes in 15:34.3, just 6.7 seconds behind champion Jamie Piepenburg of Alexandria.
"I started off in the back of the pack for about the first 400 meters," Dean said. "Going in to the 800 mark is when I started to go. Then, probably from about the 800 mark to the mile mark, I went from 30th to third. There was a big, huge hill. Going up the hill is when I got second, and I was second since then."
When Dean does finish second, it's usually behind teammate Hannah McAllister, who won three races this fall.
"We're best friends but when you go out on a cross country course you get competitive," Dean said. "We keep it good between us but we know there's a fine line between being friends and competitors."
Herath said Dean and McAllister push each other.
"It starts in practice," he said. "When you run the same workout you push each other along. They're both cut out of the same mold. In their mind the harder you work the better things come out at the end. To have a couple kids like that pulls the rest of the team along as well.
"In meets they've been 1-2 all season. They haven't gotten the recognition in the state but they're definitely two of the top-flight kids in the area. It's nice for both to have someone push them along, in meets and practice."
Other notable efforts:
Thomas Ruttger, cross country, finished third in the section meet.
Samantha Smith, diving, set a school record in the CLC meet.
Jessica Reese, swimming, won the 100 breaststroke in the CLC meet.
Colby Ring, football, scored four touchdowns against Alexandria.
Nate Schaefbauer, football, passed for 111 yards against Alexandria.
MIKE BIALKA may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 855-5861.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.