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Local prep runners tune up for Swain at Hibbing Invitational

Austin Miller ran exactly the way he wanted to, and even though he finished second, he couldn't have been happier. Miller, a Hibbing High School senior, wanted to accomplish two things -- stick with Duluth East's Grant Johnson and beat Wrenshall-...

Austin Miller ran exactly the way he wanted to, and even though he finished second, he couldn't have been happier.
Miller, a Hibbing High School senior, wanted to accomplish two things -- stick with Duluth East's Grant Johnson and beat Wrenshall-Carlton's Ryan Davis.
He beat Davis for the first time, and came within four-tenths of a second of catching Johnson, who is ranked fourth in the state in Class AA.
Duluth East also picked up eighth, ninth, 10th, 11th and 12th place finishes to win the Hibbing Rotary Meet with 39 points Thursday at the Hibbing Municipal Golf Course.
The Bluejackets, who got a seventh-place finish from Dustin Simonson, a 13th-place finish from Bob Snyder and a 17th-place finish from Doug Downs, finished with 61 points for second.
But for Miller, he couldn't have run a more perfect race.
"It's exactly how I wanted to do it," Miller said. "I wanted to stay with him (Johnson) and give it all I could."
Miller gave it all he could as he, Johnson, Davis, who is ranked second in Class A, and Chisholm's Marcus Breitbarth formed a pack at the front of the race.
That's not exactly the race Johnson wanted to see.
"I like to be out in a good lead," Johnson said. "They were pushing the pace. That was some good competition, but it's nice winning by a lot."
Johnson wasn't surprised by Miller's performance, however.
"He keeps getting better and better," Johnson said. "I totally expected him to be up there."
Miller knew he had to stay close because Johnson is such a good finisher. As they approached the home stretch, the kick began and Johnson just barely edged Miller at the finish line with a time of 16:38.3. Miller ran a 16:38.8.
"I looked behind me a couple times, and I thought Davis was there, but I knew Austin was close," Johnson said. "That was a surprise to me. I figured with 100 yards left and I'm up there, I'll take it most of the time."
That's what Miller was thinking, too, so the closer he stayed, the better chance he had of winning.
"He usually pulls away with 800 meters to go, but when it got to 400 and I was still there, I tried to go," Miller said. "He went a gear higher.
"He has a killer kick. He was surging but with the crowd, I thought that might push me over the top."
It didn't, but don't think Miller's the least bit disappointed.
"I'm delighted," Miller said. "I beat Davis and to run with Grant, I now know I can run with anybody."
Class AA Girls
Grand Rapids ran away with the girls title, scoring 23 points, compared with 54 for Duluth East. Hibbing fifth with 126.
Veronica Sackett won the individual title with a time of 15:21, beating teammate Jessica Goeden, who had a 15:25.
It was Sackett's fourth win of the year.
"I trained harder this season than I ever had," Sackett said. "I didn't know I would improve this much so I'm surprised, but I kind of knew it, too."
Both Sackett and Goeden ran side-by-side and front-to-back for most of the race, but something happened to the twosome that had never happened before.
As Goeden took the final turn for home, she looked back to see if there were any Duluth East runners on her tail. When she turned around, she felt her foot slip and down she went.
Sackett, who was right behind her, couldn't slow down fast enough and took a tumble over her best friend and teammate.
"It was weird," Goeden said. "It was an obstacle course out there."
Sackett said, "I couldn't stop in time. I fell over the top of her. I thought it would be a lot closer in the end, and it was. It was scary."
Sackett was the first to get up, and she prodded on Goeden to get up as well.
"She got up and said, 'Get up,'" Goeden said. "I got up, but it was like, 'Wow, I fell."
The two Thunderhawks were able to maintain their composure to finish one, two and help their team to the title.
Class A Boys
It's going to be some Section 7A Meet.
Three points separated first from third, as Chisholm won the title with 54 points, followed by Mesabi East with 56 and Esko with 57.
"I knew it was close," Chisholm coach Frank Urbia said. "I couldn't have called this one for nothing. It's going to come down to a great section meet.
"It could be anyone."
The Bluestreaks won the strength of a second-place finish by Mike Benchina (16:58) and a third-place finish by Marcus Breitbarth (16:58).
According to Urbia, Peter Pavlovich was the key, and he finished sixth in 17:25.
"He's been running well, but our four and five guys are definitely needed," Urbia said.
That turned out to be Ben Nickila, who was 16th (18:45) and Rich Pender, who placed 27th in 19:33.
It's that depth that has Urbia looking forward to sectionals.
"The kids are working, pushing hard," Urbia said. "Benchina and Breitbarth are battling, and he (Benchina) squeezed him out at the finish line.
"I love to see my guys battling. It's not a standard every meet. We're fighting for every spot. It's helping everybody with somebody chomping at their heels."
Benchina took the early lead in the race, but it was Breitbarth who was battling it out with Davis, Johnson and Miller.
"I liked that," Breitbarth said. "It was easier to pace, and it made the race a lot more fun. There was more competition. I really thought I could stay with them until the very end.
"I dropped off, but Austin and Davis had a good finish."
Benchina said, "I went out too fast. I took the lead and felt good, but I started to die. I wanted to catch Marcus. I was going fast but not fast enough.
"I passed Wiswell (Mesabi East's Lee Wiswell) and caught Marcus at the end."
Wiswell led the Giants with a fourth-place finish, followed by Charles Niemi in seventh and Adam Williams in ninth.
Class A Girls
Hermantown edged Mesabi East for the team title, scoring 87 points compared to 88 for the Giants. Chisholm finished eighth with 158 points.
Liz Pelkie of Wrenshall-Carlton was the individual winner, running a time of 15:34. Cherry's Amy Sinkkink was second in 15:54.
The Tiger junior has been running solidly this season, but she's been fighting an illness as of late and is just now starting to recover and gain her strength back.
"I've been pretty happy with my season, but I was sick in Grand Rapids and passed out (after the race)," Sinkkink said. "I couldn't run to my full potential.
"I was in a slump because of being sick."
Going into the race, Sinkkink had her sights set on Pelkie, but she also had another motive in mind.
"It wasn't about who I beat, but I wanted to pick up my pace," Sinkkink said. "This isn't an important race, section and state are. I wanted to improve my pace."
Cherry coach Mike Besemann said, "I kind of let them run their own race. That's the way you find out, and I don't see anything wrong with that.
"She's been sick, but tonight, she showed a little more fire at the starting line. She's coming out of that cold in plenty of time.
"I was happy with her times. I think she's doing fine."
The Bluestreaks highest finisher was Ashley Stainiger, who placed 12th in 17:10. Shelly Rolandson was 27th in 17:47.
Theresa Patchin of Mesabi East placed sixth in 16:55.
Gary Giombetti is the sports editor of the Hibbing Daily Tribune, a member of Murphy McGinnis Newspapers.

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