Lions Meet of Champions: Sisters run side by side
Having a teammate who can push an athlete to reach her fullest potential is a bonus in a sport like cross country. Having a teammate who does that who's also a sister? That's a luxury.
Alexandria freshmen Megan and Bethany Hasz can attest to that. The twin sisters push each other in training, and more often than not, they finish right behind each other on race day as two of the top cross country runners in Minnesota.
"We always train together and we try to run together," Bethany said. "Megan usually beats me. I always want to beat her but she always has a faster kick at the end."
That was exactly how things played out on Saturday afternoon as both runners finished in the top three in a talented field at the 40th Lions Meet of Champions in Alexandria. Megan jumped out early and set a torrid pace for the entire field. She led for most of the way over third-ranked Jenna Truedson of Bemidji. Truedson barely outkicked her in the end to win by a little more than two seconds.
Bethany wasn't far behind in third place as all three finished under the previous course record time of 14:20 set by Alexandria's Jamie Piepenburg. Truedson shattered that mark, finishing in 14:06.3. Megan was right behind in 14:08.8 and Bethany had almost eight seconds on the course record in 14:12.9.
"We've run against Jenna a few times," Megan said. "It's been a big goal to beat her so there's a lot of incentive to train harder and run a fast time, but we both had really good races today."
The fact that they are already breaking course records set by Piepenburg is an indication of how much potential the Hasz sisters have. Piepenburg, now a freshman runner at the University of Minnesota, became the top distance runner in Alexandria history in large part because of a work ethic that was unmatched by many.
Head cross country coach Mark Nelsen saw that determination first hand. Now he sees that exact same drive to get better in both Megan and Bethany.
"They show it every day in practice," Nelsen said. "They're our front runners for our girls' team, and they're not afraid to mix it up with our boys in training sessions. They love to compete...they're those kind of girls, and they learned that from Jamie, I think. They learned the lesson well, and it's fun to watch them race and fun to train them and work with them because they're such great young ladies."
That work ethic has already paid off with both girls finishing no worse than third at any meet this season. Megan is currently ranked fourth in the Class AA individual polls. Bethany is right behind her with a No. 5 ranking.
There aren't a lot of differences in their running styles out on the course. Both have an ability to separate themselves from the pack early. It's coming down the stretch where Megan has a slight advantage right now.
"I think we're really close," Megan said. "We just run together most of the time. It's pretty much the same, but I can usually just out kick her at the end. That's the biggest difference."
Bethany broke into a big smile when asked how much that motivates her to improve her kick. There is no doubt a friendly family rivalry exists between the two sisters.
That should continue to bring out the best in them as they try to improve over their final three years in a Cardinal uniform. Injuries are always a concern in running sports, but if both can stay healthy, the sky seems to be the limit for two of the top young runners in the Minnesota.
"I think your biggest concern with young runners that train as hard as they do and have the talent that they do is you want to keep them healthy," Nelsen said. "Running can be very abusive and when they first started running, they had injuries right away. Knock on wood, they've been pretty solid since then. That's our goal, to continue to keep them healthy and continue to see them improve all the way through their high school careers and hopefully on into a collegiate career."