Cross country: Superior’s McMeekin, Cloquet’s Fischer defend Lake Superior Conference titles
McMeekin led from start to finish while Fischer waited for the first downhill to make his move.
DULUTH — Superior sophomore cross country runner Tayler McMeekin was trailing Northwestern’s Jenna Hursh with a lap to go at the John Woodbury Invitational Sept. 20 in Lake Nebagamon when she fell and didn’t finish the race.
“I don’t know what happened,” McMeekin said. “We’re thinking my knees buckled going down a hill.”
McMeekin and Co. believe it’s related to growth-plate issues that began last season, when she burst onto the cross-country scene as a freshman, finishing 19th at the Wisconsin big-school state meet.
“She needs to grow and close that plate,” said Tayler’s mother, Jaime McMeekin.
In the meantime, a little rest apparently does the trick.
Tayler McMeekin cruised to victory at the Lake Superior Conference Cross Country Championships Tuesday, Oct. 11, covering the 5-kilometer course in 19 minutes, 39.3 seconds, with Proctor’s Lizzy Harnell a distant second in 20:03.8 and Hibbing’s Mileena Sullivan third in 20:19.2.
Cloquet senior Miles Fischer broke from the early pack in the boys race and won going away in 16:34, with Superior’s Jacob Lind second in 17:29.7 and Duluth Denfeld’s Charles Juntunen third in 17:38.6.
McMeekin and Fischer were the defending champions.
Fischer wasn’t the early leader going up the hill on the first lap but he ran a smart race. As soon as they got to the top, he took control on the downhill and appeared to just keep getting faster.
“I planned on trying to save my energy going up that first hill, to conserve for the rest of the race,” Fischer said. “I just knew I could push on the downhills pretty quick, so I used those to my advantage. Those downhills are really fun. You go really fast. There’s not much to slow you down.”
Hibbing, which got a third-place finish from Mileena Sullivan, edged Proctor by a point to win the girls team title, 41 to 40, while Adrian Hanson-Kaasa’s fourth-place finish helped Grand Rapids hold off Hibbing for the boys team title.
The championships featured an unseasonably warm 80-degree day with a 16-mph wind from the south, and while it could snow any time in October in Minnesota, this was rather uncomfortable for fall running.
“It was super hot. The sun was beating down, especially over there,” McMeekin said, pointing to the stretch approaching the finish-line area. “Over there, it was especially brutal because you couldn’t even run, the wind was pushing you so hard, straight into it.”
That’s not to say the start was a whole lot easier, either. After a small downhill, it was basically all uphill until you nearly reached the halfway point of the loop, and the runners had to do it three times, once for each lap.
“That hill took so long,” McMeekin said. “It was very hard to stay sane. My legs were burning, but then the downhill felt good.”
“It was definitely tough having to start out on that uphill,” he said. “Then knowing you have to do that same thing three times, and even though you know it’s coming, it’s still hard every time.”
The LSC championships serve as a sectional tuneup for runners on both sides of the bridge.
Superior’s sectionals are Oct. 22 in West Salem, Wisconsin.
After dropping out of the John Woodbury Invite, McMeekin ran in Hibbing but had knee pain, so she skipped the Spartans’ meet on a hilly Hayward course.
“I feel like the break after the Woodbury meet helped,” she said. “I’m feeling pretty good now. I feel like I had more adrenaline this race because it mattered more.”
When asked if Tuesday’s performance was a good sign, McMeekin cracked a grin brighter than the sunshine beaming down on her and said, “Yes, for sure.”