Brainerd Warriors cross country runner Justin Grunewald's senior season has read like a checklist.
Run with consistency. In 11 races this fall, Grunewald won eight.
Qualify individually and with his team for the Class 2A state meet. Grunewald won the Section 8, Class 2A individual title while helping his team to a second-place section finish and a berth in the state meet.
Run to a program-record finish and time at state. At state, Grunewald finished fifth with a time of 15:33, all Warrior records.
Compete for a college cross country team at the Division I level. Grunewald will sign a national letter of intent with the University of Minnesota men's cross country team and will run for the Gophers next fall.
Grunewald is believed to be the first Warrior cross country runner to sign with a Division I school.
"Ever since I was little I wanted to play sports for the Gophers," said Grunewald. "I've been talking with a lot of colleges and I just wanted to get it over with.
"It's nice to be able to represent the state. I'm excited to have (Steve) Plasencia as a coach because he's one of the best runners in the nation."
Warriors coach Dave Herath knew Grunewald was a special athlete four years ago when he first started coaching him.
"I've been with Justin since ninth grade in track," Herath said, "and 10th grade in cross country, plus I had him in class in seventh grade. He's a very bright kid and he's a student of the sport and into the training part of it. I've watched him mature as a runner and kid and it's neat to see that growth."
Grunewald will receive a partial scholarship and will more than likely redshirt his freshman season.
Besides the Gophers, he was recruited by the University of Arkansas, Columbia University and a number of Ivy League schools. Grunewald, along with Matt Parker of Montana and Ben Puhl of Rochester Century, were the first three recruits to sign with Minnesota.
"Ever since July I've gotten a lot of calls because that's when coaches could make contact," Grunewald said. "I talked to coach (Plasencia) every week and we'd talk about how the team is doing. On my visit, Roy Griak, the (Gophers) legendary coach, gave the tour. I hung out with the team and went to a hockey game.
"I'll have a lot more free time now that I don't have to talk to coaches at night when they call."
Grunewald's biggest draw to Minnesota was its top-notch academics. That, and the training schedule, shouldn't run him into the ground.
"The education was the key thing for me because I'm thinking of going into pre-med," said Grunewald. "I'll like the training too. At Wisconsin or Stanford you run like a million miles a week. You either become a great runner or get injured. I want to keep training for things even after college."
Grunewald will compete in Nordic skiing for the Warriors this winter and run track in the spring. In the meantime, he's training for the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships Midwest Regional in Kenosha, Wis., Nov. 29.
If he places in the top eight, Grunewald will move on to the national race Dec. 13 in San Diego.
What's remarkable about Grunewald is the amount of success he's had in only three years of cross country. Even Herath admits it was better Grunewald came out for cross country when he did.
"He would've driven me crazy as a seventh-grader," Herath said jokingly. "Running is one of those sports you don't have to do your whole life. Justin's proof you can come out later and still have an impact."
Does Grunewald think about how good he could've been if he had started running at an earlier age? Don't bet on it.
"I was happy playing football," Grunewald said. "I don't think too much about the past. I've had a great coach and my career has gone perfect with no injuries. Running since seventh grade can be tough and you can get injured easier. It was nice coming into the sport at the top."
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