Terrific trio: Packers are all running different paths towards state meet

Published 5:29 pm Tuesday, November 1, 2022

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The Packer cross country team has three different runners at very different points in their progression as they aim toward strong finishes at the Minnesota Class AA State Meet in Northfield Saturday.

Senior Thomas Herrick is enjoying his last run by finally making it to the big stage, sophomore Marissa Shute is trying to improve on last year’s state appearance and eighth-grader Sydney Lewis is going to gain some valuable experience.

Herrick has been chasing state since he was a seventh grader and when he came down the final stretch at last week’s Section 1AA meet, he wasn’t going to let it slip away.

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“I was nervous the whole week and when on the last 800 meters, I realized I had a chance to go and I picked it up,” Herrick said. “I passed a kid and then I had a smile on my face at the finish line. This is every runner’s dream to go to state and all of the hard work has finally paid off. I’ve wanted this forever. Last year I missed (state) by four or five spots and that lit a fire. It really motivated me.”

Herrick met with Austin grad Henry Hinchcliffe, the last Packer boy to run in a state cross country meet, last week before the section meet to relieve some nerves and that advice will carry over to the state meet.

The pressure is mostly off for Herrick, but he still wants to put up his best time against the best runners.

“I just want to run hard and run fast. I can’t be worried about everyone else,” Herrick said. “This sport is all about dedication. When you work really hard, you can see those really good times. For all of the people who succeed in this sport, they all have dedication in common.”

Shute took 65th in last year’s state meet and she is hoping to finish stronger this time around. 

“I want to do better than last year and maybe I can get in the top 25,” Shute said. “I know the spots on the course where I can pick it up and where my weaknesses are. I can use that to my advantage.”

Shute can relate to Lewis, who joined the Packers this fall after being on the swimming team in 2021. Like Lewis, Shute was once a middle-schooler on the varsity team who had to run against much older runners.

“It’s been good to have her on the team this year. I can relate to Sydney and we have that bond together,” Shute said. “It’ll be so fun to end the season off going to state together. “

Lewis used to go to the state meet to watch her older sister, Abby, run and now she’ll take her turn. Since she knows what the meet looks like, she’s especially excited to run in it.

“I knew I had a chance (to get to state), but I had to go out and run my time at sections. I was nervous before the race,” Lewis said. “The mental part of this sport is pretty hard. You have to go out faster and work harder.”

The Packers will begin competition at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday.