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Hasz sisters set the new standard

In early October, after Alexandria’s Megan and Bethany Hasz dominated a strong field at the Lions Meet of Champions, Cardinals cross country coach Mark Nelsen said that the word “awesome” hardly did the sisters justice.

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Bethany Hasz, state championMegan Hasz, runner-upPerhaps “historic” is a better fit. That’s what the twin sisters proved to be this fall after Bethany became the first girl in Alexandria program history to win an individual state title. Not surprisingly, it was her sister that finished in second place to join Jamie Piepenburg as the only other Alexandria girl to earn a runner-up finish.

Piepenburg, now a sophomore in the Big Ten at the University of Minnesota, was a dominant runner at the high school level but always had Shakopee’s Maria Hauger standing in her way at state meets. Hauger is a four-time cross country state champion and now a freshman runner at the University of Virginia.

She was the standard that every other runner in the state was shooting for until she graduated last year. Now, after Saturday, it’s clear that both Bethany and Megan are the new standard. As just sophomores, they are the ones who the rest of the state’s best runners will be trying to catch for the next two seasons.

Both Megan and Bethany come across as humble and shy after races when talking about their own accomplishments. On the course, they’re anything but shy. They don’t want to just win; they want to shatter records in the process.

That’s what they did at every meet this season. Megan became the new course record holder in Brainerd, Detroit Lakes, Little Falls, Fergus Falls and Alexandria. Bethany was ready to snag the other course record at Rocori in the one race that Megan didn’t run in this season. Over and over again, this duo proved to be something special no matter the conditions on race day.

That’s why there was a cautious optimism among those in the program as they went into the biggest meet of the season at St. Olaf on Saturday. Megan was ranked second in the Class AA polls and Bethany had climbed from number six earlier in the season to the third ranked runner. Standing in their way was top-ranked Anna French of Wayzata and fellow Section 8AA runner Jenna Truedson of Bemidji.

“Going in, we felt like either one of them had an opportunity to win it, but you hardly wanted to say that out loud,” Nelsen said of the Hasz sisters after the state meet. “When you watched them practice and you watched how they were preparing, you knew there was an opportunity for them.”

This duo has run with determination all fall and that wasn’t going to change in the final race. Simply put, one of them was going to go home with a state title. Many might have thought it would be Megan based off previous races, but Bethany proved her ability to run her best on the big stage for the second year in a row.

She took third at last year’s state meet in a time of 14:05.5 as Megan came in sixth in 14:14.5. Both shaved time off their runs at St. Olaf this year, but it was Bethany who ran away from the pack by more than 20 seconds in a time of 13:53.1.

It was a special ending for two sisters who ran almost 350 miles in the off-season with the hopes of doing what they did on Saturday. Driven, awesome and now historic – all of those adjectives work for a duo that has become the new standard on the high school running scene in Minnesota.

Eric Morken

Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.

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