When St. Paul senior Jared Arnold reflects on his love for running 5Ks — which has produced a second straight trip to the Division III state championship race on Saturday — he knows how far he has come.
“There is basically only one way to get better,” said Arnold, who will run at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday at National Trail Raceway in Hebron. “Yeah there are some runners out there who are naturally gifted, but this sport is measured in hard work.
“The way I look at it, I can always made myself better,” he added. “It’s a pretty simple formula.”
Arnold qualified for state at last week’s Tiffin regional with a time of 16:55.89, good for 13th overall. A year ago, he was 84th out of 188 runners with a time of 17:13 at state.
“Last year I was just happy I made it and can’t say I expected to make it,” Arnold said. “But this season I went into it knowing I had a good chance and expected it, really. Now I’m more focused on doing well at state instead of just being there.”
Arnold’s PR this season is a 16:24.5 at the Tiffin Carnival, also at Hedges-Boyer Park. But last week, all the times were higher as the regional was ran in cold, wet — and even snowy conditions.
“It was tough, but everyone had the same conditions,” Arnold said. “I wasn’t really prepared as I could have been last week, but I’ll be ready on Saturday.”
Arnold said he is looking forward to the course on Saturday, especially after getting the feel for it in 2016.
“It’s really fast course, which I like,” he said. “It’s pretty flat with a lot of long straightaways you can use and increase the times — and it’s also really wide. I can pass a bit easier since it’s not as narrow as last week.”
While happy to be back, Arnold said the best part of the state experience this week is having a boys teammate going down with him in junior Noah Avandano.
“Just so proud and happy for him,” Arnold said of the junior. “He ran with me all summer, and I was in his ear all year about how he could get to state. To see it happen for him, it’s just great to see.”
Dowdell ready for Act II
As a freshman, Lily Dowdell took the area by storm last season — concluding by placing 57th out of 181 runners at the 2016 Div. III state championship race.
Her time last November of 19:54.3 is certainly a point of emphasis this Saturday when the St. Paul sophomore returns to National Trail Raceway in Hebron.
“You can never really know what to expect going into a race, but I’m definitely excited to go down there again and have a better idea,” Dowdell said.
Dowdell peaked at 19:32.8 and second-place finish at the deep Galion Festival on Sept. 16. She has finished in the top five in six different races this season, and is a two-time FC champion in her two high school seasons.
Last week she turned in a 19:38.06 at Hedges-Boyer Park to finish ninth overall at the regionals.
“This season has gone way too fast, but it’s because I’ve definitely enjoyed it with our seniors and new underclassmen,” Dowdell said. “I’m a little more experienced, but our coaches really changed things up a lot. I’m always grateful for our coaches. They put a lot of time into our training.
As a freshman, Dowdell said it was a big adjustment at the National Trail course. Access is restricted in certain areas, which means less verbal encounters with the coaching staff and supporters throughout the course.
“There are kind of some blank spots out there, but it’s more restricted, which I understand,” she said. “I’m more prepared for it now.”
Last season Dowdell went into the state race wanting to have fun and just enjoy it. She says the approach won’t change in Saturday’s 11 a.m. race.
“I had fun, and I’m definitely looking forward to another great day with family and friends,” she said. “Everyone wants to go out and PR, but even if I don’t, I’m not going to let it get me down
“You can’t think too much like that, because you don’t have forever,” Dowdell added. “There are only four seasons of high school cross country, so you have to make the most of it.”
Surprise Avandano ready for next step
A drastic drop.
The word ‘surprise’ may not be the best description of junior Noah Avandano’s cross country season.
Consider in the opening race of the season, the St. Paul runner turned in a time of 17:22.51 on Aug. 26. He placed 11th that day at the Seneca East Classic, and the time was a goal of his entering the season.
But last Saturday, there was Avandano trudging through the cold, wet conditions of the Hedges-Boyer course at the Tiffin regional. When he crossed the finish line, he had turned in a time of 16:47.80 — 35 seconds faster than his season-opening run.
It was good for a 10th place finish and a trip to the Div. III state championships with teammate Jared Arnold at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday.
Even more — Avandano ran a 16:37.76 at the district meet on Oct. 21 when it was warm and dry, meaning he almost increased his PR by a full minute from opening day.
“I definitely surprised myself. I think Jared pushed me a lot summer this summer than what I did in the previous summer,” Avandano said. “Just on the workload alone, it was going to happen that I was going to run faster this year … but I didn’t think it would be this fast.”
Avandano notes that the time he ran on Saturday is about what he was expecting with the weather conditions.
“The leap in time came from running over the summer with Jared, honestly,” he said. “We’re pretty good friends, and really ever since freshman year he has always shown me the way. My goal was to become like Jared.
“I’m really not quite sure how I feel about how big of a year it’s been, but definitely surprised by it all,” Avandano added.
With it being his first time at state, Avandano said there is no pressure.
“Like everyone, the goal is always to PR and give it my all for the last race of the season,” he said.