Searching for gold: Alexandria's Jamie Piepenburg is hoping for a state crownAlexandria’s Jamie Piepenburg has to look at the big picture to keep motivated during a lot of her races in the Central Lakes Conference.
By: Eric Morken, Alexandria Echo Press
Alexandria’s Jamie Piepenburg has to look at the big picture to keep motivated during a lot of her races in the Central Lakes Conference.
The standout distance runner won her fourth straight CLC individual title on Tuesday, and she did it with ease. The Alexandria junior wanted to beat her time of 14:20 that she set at the Lions Meet of Champions at Arrowwood on October 9. She fell off that pace a little bit, finishing in 14:23.07, almost 38 seconds faster than second-place finisher Haylie Zenner of Fergus Falls.
“It’s awesome,” Piepenburg said after winning the conference title. “I’ve won a few before but this one is still great, just to repeat it.”
The conference meet marked the beginning of the most important part of the season for the states’ No. 2 ranked runner in Class AA. Piepenburg has rewritten the record books at Alexandria and in the Central Lakes Conference in both cross country and distance events in track and field. She won the state title in the 1,600-meter run last spring and the 3,200-meter title in 2009. Reaching those same levels in cross country is what continues to drive her every year.
“It’s always striving to do my best,” she said. “I just want to keep getting better and there’s always that competition side of it. Even though I don’t have a lot of competition now, once I get down to the state meet, if I do regional meets, there’s more competition there, so it’s just training to get ready for that. Then it’s just the satisfaction of racing well. It’s a good feeling.”
That drive is what makes Piepenburg so successful according to her head coach. Mark Nelsen has helped her grow from a CLC champion in middle school to where she is now as one of the top runners in Minnesota. Her ability to stay healthy and her push for perfection is what makes her stand out.
“She’s intelligent,” Nelsen said. “She’s a tremendous worker, very disciplined. She is so focused on her running and what she wants. And I think her durability is probably the No. 1 thing. She is very durable. She can take the training, and she likes to train…[Jamie] wants to get better on a consistent basis and she’s done that over her career. That’s always a challenge for girls at the high school level, and Jamie’s showing how to do that. She’s been a real pleasure to coach.”
Capturing a cross country state title is all that’s left for her to accomplish. She won section titles in 2007 and 2008. This year, she’ll be expected to do the same against some quality competition.
Two other runners ranked in the top seven of the Class AA polls reside in Section 8AA from Monticello. Junior Erica Seidenkranz is fourth, while freshman Amber Seidenkranz was ranked seventh in the latest polls. Piepenburg already beat both of them this season when she won the Lucky Lindy Invitational in Little Falls by 30 seconds over her nearest competitor.
The top 10 individuals from each section qualify for the state meet, meaning Piepenburg is all but a lock to get there again, barring an injury. She will likely have to compete against last year’s state champion once she gets there. Shakopee’s Maria Hauger won the individual title by one second over Emma Bates of Elk River. Hauger is ranked No. 1 again this year.
Piepenburg has been close the last two years. She finished third in 2008 and 2009, coming in less than five seconds behind Hauger a year ago. Getting over that hurdle is what drives her now.
“I would really like to take home that title,” Piepenburg said. “There is some great competition out there, but I really hope to have a great race down there and hopefully I can come out with a win.”
She is confident in her ability to do that this year.
“I know I can do it,” she said. “There are other great runners out there, but I’m confident in what I can do. I know I have it in me, and I know that I have the capability to do it.”
With the way she has been running, who can argue?