ST. MICHAEL, Minn. — As Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin senior Geno Uhrbom made his way around the track Thursday on the opening day of the Minnesota state track meet, coach Will Floersheim, like a lot of people in attendance, waited for the Titans star to take off.
“I kept thinking, ‘He’s going to move now, he’s going to move now,’” Floersheim said.
It never really happened.
Staples-Motley senior Emmet Anderson used a late surge to win the Class A 3,200 in 9 minutes, 17.11 seconds, with Breck sophomore Alden Keller second in 9:19.03 and Uhrbom third in 9:20.65. Cromwell-Wright sophomore Noah Foster finished eighth in 9:48.50, lopping about 19 seconds off his personal record.
Uhrbom, a senior, swept the “Triple Crown” of Minnesota distance running by winning the Class A cross country, 1,600 and 3,200 titles as a sophomore, and he felt he should have won again on Thursday.
“I felt really good but going into the final 800, I had tactically messed up and didn’t really have much kick left after that,” Uhrbom said. “If I would have run my race differently, at the last 800, I probably would have won the race.”
Uhrbom was probably referring to a range of strategy, but he certainly spent too much time running in Lane 2 as Keller outjockeyed him to the inside and forced him out.
This quickly became a three-person race, with the rest of the pack finishing 15 seconds back or more, and was quite entertaining, with the leaders jostling for the position. Uhrbom led for a spell but it didn’t last long.
“They weren’t going to let him keep it,” Floersheim said. “I thought (Anderson) looked a little tired. I thought when Geno took that lead, it was over.”
While Uhrbom clearly was disappointed, this was a fast field. His 9:20 was a PR, four seconds faster than when he won the 3,200 two years ago at the state meet at Hamline University in St. Paul (it was moved to St. Michael-Albertville this year). It was also 26 seconds better than his top time this spring.
Uhrbom simply called the time “pretty good,” but Floersheim was proud of him.
“That’s what we talked about, if he ran 70s (70-second laps), we didn’t think he’d get beat, and he did exactly what we asked him to do,” Floersheim said.
Uhrbom is no stranger to running against Anderson, who will run at Minnesota, but Keller was more of a wild card. None of them had ridiculously fast seed times; in particular, Uhrbom ran a 10:12.50 at sections, but that’s all trick mirrors and smoke, especially at this distance. They were all gearing up for the big prize, the state meet.
“All by design,” Floersheim said.
Uhrbom and Rock Ridge sophomore Cameron Stocke are among the favorites in Friday’s 1,600, which features a loaded field that could challenge the state meet record on another hot day with temperatures expected to reach 91 degrees.
“It’s going to be very difficult for everybody,” Uhrbom said. “It’s going to be really hard to win that race.”
Uhrbom will run at North Dakota, where former GNK star Ellyssa Peterson just finished her collegiate running career.
Uhrbom will leave as one of the Northland’s greatest distance runners. He never did get the opportunity to defend his Triple Crown the way he wanted to. He repeated as the Class A cross country champion as a junior but never got to defend his track titles last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But he certainly was around long enough to leave an undeniable mark.
“Geno helped make distance running strong again in Northeastern Minnesota. People around the state equate our area to great distance running again,” Floersheim said. “Geno not only raised the bar for everyone on our team, but for our entire section. He helped to make Cameron better, and look at how well Noah ran today. They're terrific runners and terrific young men.
“There is an entire crop of runners coming up who looked up to Geno. He’s one in a generation.”