BY DAVE PEDERSEN
Playing soccer this fall didn’t slow down Rockford senior Abby Botten, who qualified for the state cross country meet Saturday, Nov. 2 in Northfield.
Most serious spring track distance runners also take part in fall cross country running. However, Botten had too much passion for playing soccer and served as a Rocket captain this fall season.
Botten said she heard from her potential college track coaches that they preferred she was involved in cross country as conditioning for track and her mile specialty. So, when the soccer season ended a couple weeks ago, Botten joined the Rocket cross country team in time for the conference meet and was a surprise eighth-place finisher, earning All-Conference honors.
At last week’s Section 5A meet in Milaca, Botten finished 12th overall to earn the final state qualifying spot, improving her time by about 1:15 from a week earlier.
“She started out much faster and maintained that pace throughout the race,” said coach Jason Hester. “It will be very interesting to see how much more she will improve her time at state. I am sure that her time will be better being she will be running in a fast and intense race.”
Botten says she did not think about running cross country until about a week before she did. She had two practices before the league meet.
“It was kind of difficult at first because I moved to defense this season, a position that does not require as much running,” says Botten about the switch from soccer to running two and a half miles. “I was very nervous because many of the same track competitors also run cross country. I also felt the pressure of being expected to be good because I went to state in track.”
Since she was young, Botten played basketball and soccer, but not a spring sport. In ninth grade she decided to run track as conditioning for soccer. She placed eighth in the mile at sections that year, moving up to fourth as a sophomore. Last spring, Botten captured the section title, advancing to state where she finished eighth.
What makes the story more unique is Botten had never run the two-mile race in track, so this was twice as far than her longest race. However, she stayed strong at the end, passing runners who were getting tired.
“I find running relaxing and easy to do,” notes Botten. “In track last year I knew I had a really good chance to make state with the time I put up earlier. It was a matter of how much willpower I had that day.”
Botten adds how she did not have the mindset of going to state when running at the section meet. She had no idea she made it until she was told after the race. At state, Botten said, “I will go do my best and see where it takes me.”
Rockford finished 12th out of 23 section teams with only five runners. Other teams ran seven, with the top five counting in the team scoring. Most of the Rockets ran personal best times by a good margin.
The team included seventh-grader Erin Hopkins (61), eighth-grader Elizabeth Nelson (71), sophomore Anya Cady (96) and sophomore Emma Hawley (108).
Rockford’s boys finished 11th out of 21 teams. Hester said times were consistent with the conference meet. Nick Klonne was with the leaders for the first mile, but fell back as he has been fighting an illness.
Austin Witthuhn (33) led the way, followed by Klonne (42), Ty Griffin (45), Brannon Winters (75), Joe Pothast (91), Drew Haften (92) and Nico VanDanaker (96).