Marisa Shady is the best of the bestArms raised, wearing a smile that was pure sunshine, Marisa Shady approached the finish line triumphantly. Not knowing what to do moments after, she broke down in tears. That’s when it hit her. She was a state champion.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
Arms raised, wearing a smile that was pure sunshine, Marisa Shady approached the finish line triumphantly. Not knowing what to do moments after, she broke down in tears. That’s when it hit her. She was a state champion.
The Esko sophomore raced her way to a career afternoon, as her 4,000-meter finishing time of 14 minutes, 45.4 seconds was a personal best en route to capturing the Class A girls state cross country championship Saturday at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn.
Shady became the first-ever cross country champion in Esko’s storied school history. She is the first Northland girl winner since Duluth East’s Kendall Wheeler won the Class AA title 12 years ago, in 1998.
“Oh my, it hasn’t really even sunk in yet,” said Shady, who hadn’t even won a section race before a couple weeks ago when she came in 47 seconds ahead of the nearest runner, teammate Kailee Kiminski. “I thought I’d have a chance to get in the top 10, but never did I think I’d have a chance to win!”
Ranked eighth heading into the race, Shady explained that she stayed in the middle of the lead pack, eventually making her move at the 1.75 mile marker.
“I took the lead and never looked back,” recalled Shady, who also played soccer this fall.
Coming down the final stretch, Shady shocked spectators with her substantial lead on her competitors, as she won by over six seconds. Yet, her coach’s jaw never dropped.
“It wasn’t really surprising,” said longtime Esko coach Jerry Zimny. “We expected her to be in the lead pack and when you’re in the lead pack, anything can happen. She ran really smart, made a move, and took off from there. It was awesome.”
Crossing the line, she was barely out of breath.
“I was a little tired when I was done, but I wasn’t exhausted or anything,” said the slim running enthusiast, who’s qualified for state every season of her four-year career. “I felt really good about the race.”
The whole thing was quite surreal for the home-schooled, humble, confident Esko girl.
“I was like ‘I’m in first right now,’” Shady said, remembering her reaction just meters before the finish line. “I thought maybe my junior or senior year I’d maybe have a shot. I didn’t think this would be the year, but I guess it was.”
Following Shady was her younger sister, freshman Erika Shady, in 29th, while eighth-grader Kiminski placed 56th and sophomore Kallyn Knutson claimed 64th place.
Junior Jackson Lindquist guided the Esko boys with his 5,000-meter time of 16:36.8 en route to being named All-State in 17th place, while sophomore Joey Johnson came in 66th. Senior Adam Eskuri followed in 76th and freshman Matt Rengo closed out the top 100.
In team competition, the Eskomos placed fifth in the girls division with 169 points, while the boys took sixth at 193. Adrian won the girls team title, while Perham reined as the boys champions.
Nonetheless, their success explained what a season it was. In addition to their running dominance, Eskuri was named Academic All-State, while both the boys and girls surpassed the state’s academic gold standard, posting team GPA’s over 3.75.
“These are some pretty remarkable kids, they do everything well,” said Zimny. “I was real pleased. I thought we’d be pretty decent, but I didn’t think we’d dominate the section and perform like we did at state. But these kids really came through. It was a remarkable season.”
Cloquet’s Peterson and Swanson enjoy time at state’s pinnacle
Cloquet senior Halee Peterson and Erik Swanson may not have won their respective Class AA races, yet the pair of friends still had an enjoyable afternoon at Saturday’s memorable meet.
Running in their first-ever state meets, Peterson claimed 72nd in the girls race with her time of 15 minutes, 38.5 seconds, while Swanson took 114th in the boys division at 17:18.2.
AlBrook seventh-grader Gracie Otis finished 90th in Class A girls at 16:34.2.
“We had a great weekend, it was a lot of fun,” said Cloquet coach Mike Bushey. “Overall, our kids were all so fun to work with, and for those two to make it to state was the icing on the cake. It was such a great experience for them. Saturday was perfect. It was wonderful.”