Pacelli runner works his way to the top

Published 8:44 pm Monday, October 27, 2008

A Pacelli senior recently found out just how far hard work can take an athlete.

After originally joining cross country to stay in shape for wrestling his freshman year, Colin Sheehan joined the elite runners of the state last Thursday in Rochester when he qualified for the Class A state cross country meet by taking ninth place with a time of 17:28.3.

“I’ve put a lot of time into it. When I started as a freshman I had no taste for it and nobody in my family had ever done it,” Sheehan said. “(Getting to the state meet) was really satisfying. I was hurting but it was totally worth it and I was pumped.”

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Sheehan’s wrestling instincts were a big part of why he had success on a rainy day last week.

“It was raining and everybody was thinking it was not going to be fun,” he said. “But as a wrestler you just kind of learn to overcome whatever’s in front of you.”

Two years ago, the state meet was the farthest thing from Sheehan’s mind as he took 52nd in the Section 1A meet. Only the top 10 runners — plus the top team — from each section advance to state.

“I really didn’t (see myself) getting to state,” Sheehan said. “I won my second ever JV race and that was kind of cool. But slowly through that year I could see myself gaining on the older guys and I gradually kept going.”

Last year Sheehan was near his peak when he finished 11th at the Section 1A meet and just missed a state berth as a junior. That finish only motivated him to work harder this year, and he ran the Northern Hills Golf Course 15 seconds faster this time around. Sheehan needed most of those seconds as Hayfield’s Nate Conroy took 11th and finished just six seconds behind him.

Pacelli head coach Jim Parlin said the team had hoped to get their top runner to state after last season.

“Ever since his finish last year at the section meet, which was a little bit of a surprise, the goal was for him to make the top 10 and get to state,” he said.

Sheehan learned a little bit about getting to state from one of his former teammates. Josh Gunderson, who now runs cross country at St. John’s University, made it to three state cross country meets. Gunderson was the last Pacelli runner to qualify for state when he advanced in 2005.

“He’s a pretty big influence. I still talk to him and see him race about once a year (at St. Johns),” Sheehan said. “My mom called him as soon as soon as the race was over and he was really excited for me, so that was cool.”

Now Sheehan must focus on the biggest race of his life where he will compete with over 80 of the state’s best runners.

“It’s a once in a lifetime deal and it’ll be a lot bigger race than any of the other races I’ve been in,” Sheehan said. “Since I’ve never been there before I’ll just focus on trying to run with the runners from my Section.”

Parlin said it’s always nice to have another runner heading to the state meet.

“We’re just thrilled with the opportunity to go and now we’ll stay focused on how to stay sharp and run the best race,” he said. “(Having him go) helps the younger kids in the program see what’s possible if you work hard enough.”

The Class A boys 5,000 meter race will take place at 11 a.m. in Saint Olaf College in Northfield this Saturday. The awards ceremony will be conducted approximately 30 minutes after the race.