Cross-Country: Cannon Falls' Trost chugging along with state's best
Emi Trost's favorite book growing up was "The Little Engine That Could."
Life mirrors art and it fits Trost snug. Trost has become much like her locomotive friend, spinning through difficult workouts and races with a perpetual smile across her face; the success soon followed.
"I'm always telling myself, 'I think I can, I think I can,'" Trost said. "She was little and kind of an insignificant train and she rose to the challenge and nobody thought she could."
Trost, a junior at Cannon Falls High School, won the Section 1A meet last week in Rochester, and is the third-ranked runner in Class 1A with plenty of wins, but she will need her best possible performance to repeat as runner-up at -- or even win -- the Class 1A state cross-country meet Saturday at St. Olaf College in Northfield.
Blake School's Clare Flannagan, ranked No. 1 in Class 1A, returns to defend her title. Flannagan, one of the best high school runners in the nation, will provide the toughest test of the season for Trost.
Flannagan bested Trost last year at the state meet, as well as at a meet earlier this season, and she also won the Class 1A state track and field 3,200-meter race in the spring.
"As far as Clare is concerned, I know what she can do. I won't try to limit myself, but she's kind of that whole other level and I'm OK with that," Trost said.
But Trost and Cannon Falls head coach Ben Schopp know anything can happen at the state meet. No runner is unbeatable.
"Anytime you limit yourself to thinking that in any competitive sport, you're beat," Schopp said of thinking Flannagan has the race won. "We respect Clarem but we shoot for Clare and we hope to beat her."
Trost competed in 10 races this season for the Bombers, winning seven. The three races she didn't win, the Mayo Invite, the Gerry Smith Invitational and the Prescott Invite, Trost was behind the top runners in the state. Flannagan won the Mayo Invite, seventh-ranked (2A) Anna French, of Wayzata, won the Gerry Smith Invitational and Spring Valley's Breanna Colbenson won the Prescott Invite. Colbenson was runner-up at the Wisconsin Division III state cross-country meet this year with a time of 14 minutes, 44.93 seconds.
"When you're running at that level, it's any given day," Schopp said. "Emi had a great finish in Rochester at that conference meet, she looked strong and that last half mile, she really looked good."
The weather conditions were ideal at the conference meet and Trost hopes to repeat that performance at the state meet.
"I know it'd be really fun to run another time like I did at conference," Trost said. "That would be great if I could do that or better, I'd be happy. It depends on the day; it depends on how I feel. I also feel like I could be runner-up again."
At the conference meet, Trost ran a personal record time of 14 minutes, 8 seconds, and the improved competition could help push her to lower times.
"At the state meet, everybody is going to get out and go and that's OK," Schopp said. "Everybody's going to be there for a mile and a half or two, and then they won't be after that. She can run her race and they can try to stay with her.
"I think the last half mile is what really pushes her," Schopp added. "It comes down to that last half mile and on any given day whoever has that strength. The race really begins after mile two."
But the final place isn't everything to Trost. She believes she can run a great time at the state meet and said her faith defines her success.
"The place isn't all that matters," Trost said. "Of course it's a little bit frustrating that previous state champions weren't as good as me and you don't get the accolades for being champion, but sometimes that's what makes you better is not having something and striving to get it and then learning that if you don't get it, to be content with that. To be content with all you've worked for this whole year and all that you've accomplished."
On Saturday, Trost will compete in her fourth consecutive state tournament and every year she's gotten closer to a state title. Schopp's goal for her was to break 15 minutes and she ran 14:34.7 as the runner-up at state. But Flanagan won the race at 14:21.7.
Now Trost is aiming to break the 14-minute mark, and Flanagan ran a 13:56.2 last Thursday at the Section 4A meet. Trost is chasing a record time but she wants to keep calm and enjoy the experience.
"Just get excited and have fun but not get worried and stressed out," she said. "Knowing the course is great but really it comes down to my faith. I would not be able to be as confident as I am, and a good kind of confidence not a haughty type of confidence, without my faith."
"God already knows what's going to happen on Saturday," she added, "and knowing He already knows is comforting because in the long run it'll be what he wants. It'll define me as a person and help me grow in faith and running."
A large hill looms at St. Olaf's course. Many of the competitors run out of steam in the final mile because of that hill. But with faith, hard work and a little optimism, Trost believes "I think I can, I think I can."