A chance to beat the best: Alexandria's Jamie Piepenburg qualifies for Nike NationalsAlexandria’s Jamie Piepenburg will get a chance to prove herself against the top high school runners in the nation after qualifying for the Nike Cross Nationals in Portland, Oregon on November 14.
By: Eric Morken, Alexandria Echo Press
Alexandria’s Jamie Piepenburg will get a chance to prove herself against the top high school runners in the nation after qualifying for the Nike Cross Nationals in Portland, Oregon on November 14.
Piepenburg is well known as one of the top cross country runners in Minnesota. At the regional meet in Sioux Falls, she established herself as one of the best in the Midwest. She finished the 5K course in 18 minutes, 1.83 seconds against the top runners from Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
Her third-place finish solidified her spot at nationals for the second time in her career after she qualified as a freshman in 2008. Piepenburg said she had a hard time focusing on the race that time around. That affected her on the course as she finished 87th in the girls 5K championship. This time, she feels much more comfortable as she shoots for a faster finish.
“It wasn’t my best race,” she said of her first experience at nationals. “I kind of went out there as a freshman and everything was just really cool to me. I wasn’t really focused on the race…this year I’d really like to do a lot better in the race, place much higher than last time, probably top 25 or so. Still have fun, but put a little more focus on the race.”
That she qualified for nationals was not even the biggest story of her race at regionals – it’s who she beat that was of the most significance to her. Piepenburg reeled in Minnesota’s Class AA champion, sophomore Maria Hauger of Shakopee, over the last half mile to edge her by almost five seconds.
Hauger is the top ranked runner in Minnesota and the back-to-back state champion. She edged Piepenburg by almost 15 seconds at St. Olaf College earlier this month to win the 2010 title. That race was a 4K course, compared to the 5K course they ran at the regional meet.
The extra distance proved beneficial for Piepenburg as she passed Hauger down the stretch. She still has her senior season to capture a state title, and beating Hauger, even in a longer race, has given her confidence that she can do that.
“It was awesome because she had just beaten me the week before,” Piepenburg said. “I’ve always had my sights set on her. There’s a little bit of a rivalry there. It was close to the end and it just feels good to pass people. Now the next time I go, I know I can beat her. I just need to be tough and actually do it.”
She will not have to wait long to get another shot at her. Hauger qualified for nationals, set for December 4, by finishing fifth at the regional meet.
Piepenburg said the two runners have not had an opportunity to get to know each other outside of competition. They know plenty about each other on the course, though. Every time they face off, it’s at important meets like state and now at nationals. Having so much on the line only motivates Piepenburg more when the two face off.
“We both want to take the titles home,” she said. “And there’s one other person standing in the way. We don’t get a chance to talk a lot cause there’s so many runners, but we both congratulate each other…we’ll be spending a few days out in Portland, so we’ll probably get a chance to get to know each other a little more.”
Piepenburg’s primary focus will be on the race. The junior has grown a lot as a runner since her first experience at nationals. She is no longer satisfied with just getting there. Now she feels she belongs with the best runners there, and she is looking forward to proving it.