Prep cross country: GNK's Uhrbom striving to be the best
Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin freshman Geno Uhrbom was asked if he was feeling added pressure being Minnesota’s top-ranked Class A boys runner going into Saturday’s state cross country meet at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn.
“There’s a little bit of pressure because I know the competition that is going to be there, but I try not to worry about it too much,” he said. “I just prepare for what I have to do.”
Being the favorite can be an added challenge for any athlete — even more so for a freshman — but it’s no more pressure than Uhrbom puts on himself. His maturity and approach belie his years.
“Geno takes things very seriously,” Titans coach Will Floersheim said. “He knows what he wants to do this weekend. When we get down there, he’ll be studying every aspect of the course with me, even though he’s run it before. He prepares incredibly well. Even in practice, every day he’s the first kid who has to know exactly what we’re doing.”
Uhrbom would be the first Northland athlete to win a cross country title since Proctor’s Matt Welch in 2012, but it won’t be easy as defending champion Declan Dahlberg is in the field. Uhrbom, who is undefeated this season, beat Dahlberg at the Milaca Mega Meet in September, but Dahlberg, like Uhrbom last fall, was coming off a bout with mononucleosis.
“Declan is definitely the runner to beat,” Uhrbom said. “He’s recovered very well since then. I think the pressure is on him because he wants to defend his state title, but really, the pressure is on anybody.”
Uhrbom burst onto the scene as a seventh-grader, running some of the fastest track times in the country for his age according to milesplit.com. But rather than plateau at a young age, he has kept improving.
Floersheim has talked to other cross country coaches this week about what makes Uhrbom special.
“Geno does all the right things,” Floersheim said. “When someone his age comes and talks to you about geeky runner type things, like lactate threshold, stuff you don’t hear about from kids, and he gets it, and he cares about it, it’s unreal. He’s a good student, he’s a respectful and responsible young man, and it’s amazing how that is translating into success that people see. He’s the whole deal.”
What’s even better for Uhrbom is that he will have his teammates there to support him as the Titans boys qualified via a second-place team finish at last week’s Section 7A meet at Cloquet Country Club. North Shore qualified both its boys and girls squads. The Proctor girls also will be there after three-peating as Section 7A champs, and the Cloquet boys qualified in Class AA for the fifth time.
The GNK boys are competing for the third straight year after struggling to field enough boys to even qualify as a team. Sophomore Greg Peterson, the younger brother of University of North Dakota runner Elyssa Peterson, has come on this fall, while Cody Staydohar, the team’s lone senior, is another top runner.
“We were 13th last year, a little disappointing for us, so we’ll see what happens this year,” Floersheim said.
Uhrbom is already looking forward to the spring track season, where he has a goal of running the 1,600 meters in under 4 minutes, 20 seconds. He would like to one day qualify for a Nike or Footlocker national event but until then wants to capture a state cross country title.
“Geno wants to know goal times and pace times for every part of every workout,” Floersheim said. “He wants to make sure he’s doing everything to the best of his ability. Yeah, he’s kind of happy-go-lucky, but he’s also concrete sequential in that he has to know the outcome and then try to achieve it. Just the way he talks and handles himself, you wouldn’t think you’re looking at a freshman.”
CROSS COUNTRY STATE MEET
Where: St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minn.
Schedule: Class AA girls, 10 a.m.; AA boys, 11 a.m.; A girls, 1 p.m.; A boys, 2 p.m.
Forecast: Morning showers with a high of 42 and 9 mph wind