Alex track: Piepenburg focuses on the whole pictureAlexandria's Jamie Piepenburg looked back on her career after coming up short in her final two races in a Cardinal uniform.
By: Eric Morken, Alexandria Echo Press
Jamie Piepenburg doesn’t have to settle for anything on a track very often.
The Cardinal senior has proven over the course of her career that when she wants something, she usually goes out and takes it. Piepenburg went into the Class AA state meet this past weekend wanting to wrap up her career with two more state distance titles. Instead, she was forced to settle for third in the 3,200-meter run and second in the 1,600.
“I’m kind of disappointed that I didn’t get them both,” Piepenburg said. “That’s been my goal for a while now and just not getting that is disappointing, but it’s been a fun career. This one meet doesn’t define my whole career.”
Piepenburg was much happier with her performance in the 1,600-meter run on Saturday after what she called “not a smart race” in the 3,200 on Friday. Both races came down to the usual suspects as Maria Hauger of Shakopee won the mile and the two-mile to complete the Triple Crown in distance races after taking the cross country title in the fall.
It was only fitting that Hauger and Piepenburg were neck-and-neck going into the stretch run of Piepenburg’s final high school race. Hauger just edged her in the 1,600 with a time of 4:55.88. Piepenburg followed right behind her in 4:56.52.
“She’s a great competitor,” she said of Hauger. “I always look forward to racing her. It brings out the best in me knowing that there’s somebody else out there that’s working hard and pushing hard, and it motivates me to get better so I can compete with her. It goes both ways. This was her year. She did well, but I’ve had my turn and we definitely go back and forth.”
Piepenburg had no regrets on Saturday but would have liked to have another shot at things on Friday. She finished third in the 3,200-meter run with a time of 10:36.95, more than 12 seconds off her seed time coming into the meet. Hauger won in 10:28.85 and Danielle Anderson of Eagan finished second in 10:35.06.
In hindsight, Piepenburg said she knows she needed to come out faster to give herself a chance. The rest of the field didn’t tire like she thought they might and it ended up costing her in the end.
“My first lap was very slow,” Piepenburg said. “That probably was the difference in the race. People’s legs didn’t get tired as fast, and I think I can handle having tired legs longer than most other people. I kind of put it into their court and didn’t give myself a chance to do what I do best.”
It wasn’t how she wanted to end her career but the way she responded with a strong race in the 1,600 epitomizes what Piepenburg was all about during her time with the Cardinals.
“It has been so much fun,” she said. “Just working hard every day to get better and never giving up. I didn’t run well [on Friday], but I came back today, and I still didn’t win, but I ran a much better race.”
She will leave Alexandria as the most decorated distance runner in school history. Her 3,200-meter time of 10:24.57 that she ran at the Section 8AA meet is the third fastest time for a female competitor in Minnesota history. Those records are only part of what head coach Mike Empting said this team will miss from Piepenburg.
“When I look at what I want to see out of athletes and the individuals in my programs, she epitomizes that,” he said. “The hard work, the dedication, her character and her integrity. She just embodies all those things that I look for in the kids that I want to coach…these last two races don’t define her as a person for one thing because she has so many other things going for her. She’s going to be successful in life way beyond track and field.”
That next step in her life will take her to the University of Minnesota. Piepenburg was already looking forward to having these next 10 days of rest over with so she could start her college training program.
That drive separated her from most other high school distance runners during her career. It’s what she knows will help make her a successful member of the Gophers in the Big Ten.