Section 1A Cross Country Meet

Zumbrota-Mazeppa/Kenyon-Wanamingo's Natasha Sortland risen to a No. 1 ranking in Class A cross country.

It’s easy to guess how Natasha Sortland spends at least portions of her long-distance training runs.

She busies here mind considering ways to make the planet more sustainable.

“People have to know how bad our plastic problem is on earth,” the Zumbrota-Mazeppa/Kenyon-Wanamingo freshman star cross country runner said. “That is one of my biggest desires, to let people know about it and to try to improve the situation. Plastic doesn’t decompose; it doesn’t break down and it eventually gets in the food chain. Right now, I am trying to figure out ways to not let that happen.”

The state’s No. 1 ranked Class A cross country runner then adds this:

“A lot of people only know me for running,” said Sortland, who is also among the state’s shortest runners at 4-feet-11. “But I actually probably care more about (the plastic problem) than I do running. There is a lot of science to this. I’m trying to figure it out, one step at a time”

Just as the Z-M/K-W freshman has figured out how to be among the state’s top distance runners, one step at at time.

There has been science involved there, too, with her lead scientist her mom, Anna Sortland. 

Anna, a native of Russia, has studied ways for runners to get the most out of themselves. Natasha and twin sister Katrina have been the beneficiaries of that. Katrina shows off her running skills in the spring for the Zumbrota-Mazeppa track team and plays soccer in the fall.

Natasha bookends her school year with running — cross country in the fall and track in the spring. It’s Nordic skiing for them both in the winter and triathlons in the summers.

“Natasha does a lot of healthy eating and recovery (from her runs),” Anna said. “She puts a lot of effort into eating the right foods. And she does a lot of training on the weekends (in addition to the Z-M/K-W practices during the week). She’s passionate about the sport. But I don’t want her to overdue it and get burned out.”

So far, so good there.

Natasha has never been better or happier as a runner than now.

Zumbrota-Mazeppa/Kenyon-Wanamingo has particpated in just two meets so far. But Natasha made the most of them and gave those doing the rankings something impressive to work with.

Her breakout performance came in the St. Olaf High School Showcase, a massive and prestigious meet. She placed second overall in it after landing 19th last year, and improved her time by a whopping 45 seconds.

“I ran with the pack to begin the race, and that really pushed me,” Natasha said. “That was good for me. That’s the reason I did so well.”

It also didn’t hurt that she’d had a summer to once again pour herself into her training.

Those triathlons (mixing running, biking and swimming) and the training for them went a massive ways toward getting her in ideal shape. 

And it’s that training that is her favorite part about these endurance sports.

“I love the training part,” Natasha said. “I’m not really big into competing because I get pretty stressed before meets. I start worrying about everything. The night before a race, I’ll put my legs up against a wall and let all of the blood drain to my head. That helps get your mind right.”

There is a science to it. 

But above all, Natasha has relied on effort to get her to where she’s gone. Longtime Zumbrota-Mazepp/Kenyon-Wanamingo girls and boys cross country teams coach Brad Smith says you can’t miss that effort.

“Like all of the good ones that I’ve had the opportunity to coach, Natasha is not afraid to put the time in,” Smith said. “She’s very driven. That’s part of what makes her so fun to coach.”

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Sports Reporter

Pat covers tennis, girls basketball, football, soccer, track and field, and baseball. He also writes about Gophers football and basketball, and the Timberwolves. He’s been reporting for the Post Bulletin since 1994.