Schimmel ready for first state cross country meet experience
When Riley Macon crossed the finish line at last week's Section One, Class AA cross country meet, the first thing he did was look behind him.
He was searching for teammate and close friend Steven Schimmel.
"I looked back right away to see where he was," Macon, a junior at Rochester Mayo, said, "and thankfully I saw him right there behind me. I was so happy to see that."
With Schimmel so close behind him at the finish, Macon knew that not only was he headed to the Class AA state meet, but so was Schimmel. The Class AA boys meet is scheduled for a 1 p.m. start on Saturday at St. Olaf College Northfield. The Class AA girls race will follow at 2 p.m. The Class A races will be run at 10 a.m. and 11 a.m.
According to the Mayo cross country website, this is the first time since the Spartans qualified as a team in 1991, that two Mayo boys runners will compete in the same state meet.
"I'm excited and really nervous," Schimmel, also a junior, said Thursday, less than 48 hours before start time. "I've been up a couple of times to watch and I ran part of the course when I was in seventh grade, so I'm sort of familiar with it."
Saturday will mark the culmination of an impressive season for Schimmel. He has five top-10 finishes out of 10 meets this season. All of those have come in the past five meets. That list includes sixth-place finishes at the Big Nine Conference meet and last week's Section 1AA meet, where he ran his personal best time of 16:24.2. Macon finished second in that meet behind Red Wing senior Bryant Blahnik.
A year ago, Schimmel placed 52nd at the section meet and didn't even count toward Mayo's team score.
"He was maybe our sixth-best runner last year," Macon said, "and now he's sixth in the section. That's an amazing improvement. He's a quieter guy, one of the more reserved guys on the team, but he's such a hard worker. You can see that by how much he's improved since last year."
Schimmel wasn't even sure he had earned a spot in the state meet when he crossed the finish line at Brooktree Golf Course in Owatonna last Thursday during the section meet. He said with about 800 meters remaining in the race, his coaches told him he was in 11th or 12th place, so he did his best to pass some runners before they crossed the line.
"When I finished and got through the chute, some teammates were there telling me I finished sixth," Schimmel said. "I was more shocked than anything."
If there is any shock to worry about on Saturday, Schimmel will have the comfort of having a teammate beside him. Because of the way runners finished at the Section 1AA meet, Schimmel and Macon — making his second state meet appearance — will start side by side at state.
"It was a great experience last year," Macon said, "but the one thing missing was having teammates there. It will be really nice to have a familiar face there. Going alone last year, to now having two of us … we're hoping we can bring the whole team next year."