PREP GIRLS' CROSS COUNTRY: Seivert claims second at state

FORT DODGE, Iowa -- Coach Keith Swenson has a theme for his runners on the Sibley-Ocheyedan cross country team: 'Finish strong.' Standout freshmen Leah Seivert and Amy Dreessen did just that in Saturday's season-ending girls' 2A state championshi...

FORT DODGE, Iowa -- Coach Keith Swenson has a theme for his runners on the Sibley-Ocheyedan cross country team: 'Finish strong.'

Standout freshmen Leah Seivert and Amy Dreessen did just that in Saturday's season-ending girls' 2A state championships in Fort Dodge.

Seivert placed second and Dreessen placed 29th in a field of 132 runners, capping remarkable seasons for both of them.

"I was telling them earlier in the week after our last workout, 'The hay is in the barn, let's go to Fort Dodge on Saturday and go sell our hay,'" Swenson said. "They went after it, which was awesome."

Seivert placed second behind Solon's Lauren Benzing, who finished in 14:33. It was the first time Seivert has not finished in first place all season. However, her performance may have been her best yet.


"Her personal best time is a 14:31, but that was on a very very flat course," Swenson said. "When you go to state and run a 14:40 with all those hills, I'm like, 'Wow! That was a great race.' I think she's pretty proud of what she's accomplished, and I'm very proud of her. I think that was her best race of the year."

Seivert was in the lead during the early part of the race, but later fell behind Benzing, who, depending on the poll, came into the race ranked between first and third in the state.

"I was in first for almost half the race," Seivert said. "I was just trying not to think about getting passed or anything, I was just trying to focus on running and not anything else. When she passed me, it gave me someone to push me, so it didn't really matter. She's a really good runner."

Dreessen was trapped racing within a pack at the start of the race, but made great strides during the latter stages.

"I thought my opponents were taking it really fast, but at the one-mile mark my time was actually slower than normal," Dreessen said. "The finish felt good and strong. I was in the high 30s, but then after the two-mile mark I started to kick the speed up."

Dreessen's result was all the more outstanding considering that at the beginning of the season she hadn't thought about qualifying for the state meet at all.

"I thought that I'd be going to state to watch Leah at the end of the season, but then I ended up running with her," Dreessen said.

At the beginning of the season Dreessen was racing on the JV squad, so her improvement came at a quick pace.


"She came across with a great race, finishing 29th," Swenson said. "I did not see that happening at the beginning of the year. She just really worked hard this year and really improved."

Seivert and Dreessen are best friends, so it was extra special for the two to have the opportunity to be together in such an important race.

The pair also benefitted from a large group of supporters that made the trip to watch the race.

The S-O fans were all dressed in yellow t-shirts, making them easy for Seivert and Dreessen to spot while they were racing.

"I was really pushing myself since it was the last meet of the year," Seivert said. "It was easy with all the people cheering for me, and it made it a lot better. I just want to thank all the people who came. My team all came, so I thank them for coming."

Swenson also extended his gratitude to the people who came down to support the runners, a number that he estimated to be between 50 and 60.

"I'd just like to say thank you to all those fans that made the trip and cheered them on, because it really meant a lot to Leah and Amy," Swenson said. "It meant a lot to me too. It was just awesome to see all those people come down there."

Seivert and Dreessen both have aspirations to return to the state championships next year now that they each have created a benchmark in their freshman season.


"I'm glad that I had this opportunity, and I hope that I can have it again at least one more year of my high school career," Dreessen said. "Going into the race I was just really nervous, but once we started it all went away."

Seivert knows that Belzing will likely be waiting for her again next year, and is looking forward to compete again against the only high school runner that has ever beaten her.

"I know I'll have to race against Lauren again for a couple years since she's a sophomore," Seivert said. "Now I'll just have to work really hard to get up with her and stay with her throughout the race."

In the meantime, Seivert and Dreessen will continue to train together and keep busy in their other activities.

Seivert is a passionate basketball player, and Dreessen will be trying out for the dance team for the first time. They will both also compete in track in the spring.

Both girls are hoping that more people will be interested in joining the cross country team next year to help make it stronger.

Swenson believes that the enthusiasm Seivert and Dreessen have created with their performances this year has done more than anything to make this a reality.

"I'm hoping some other boys and girls have seen what they've done, and hopefully they now will say, 'Hey, I want to go out for cross country,'" Swenson said. "We're kind of down on numbers this year, so I'm hoping to get things to where a lot more people will come out for cross country."

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