Exceeding expectationsNORTHFIELD — In many ways, Cannon Falls eighth-grader Kaia Bierman’s approach to running is self-taught.
By: Ryan Nilsson, The Republican Eagle
NORTHFIELD — In many ways, Cannon Falls eighth-grader Kaia Bierman’s approach to running is self-taught.
At the start of the season, Bierman was gripped with anxiety before races. She said the nerves were part of the reason she passed out after the second meet of the season at Zumbro Falls Golf Club.
To counteract her worries, Bierman began to bring a Game Boy to races. She later learned that socializing before a meet was more effective.
However, before Saturday’s Class A championships at St. Olaf College there was no one to talk with. Teammate and fellow eighth-grader Emi Trost opted to read a book.
So Bierman willed herself to be calm.
“I just wouldn’t let myself get worried about it,” she said.
And when she started to feel overwhelmed at about the one-mile mark — a product of the fast start and the heat — Bierman allowed her mind to wander. She said she started to think about Disney’s “The Lion King.”
“If I think about something (else), I’ll forget about my exhaustion,” she said.
It’s a technique Bierman said she discovered while running at the Lewiston-Altura invitational Oct. 8.
Yet, when Bierman was asked to explain her success — she finished sixth in 15 minutes, 26.1 seconds — she gave Trost all the credit. Trost finished in 25th place (15:55.8) to earn the final all-state spot.
“She made me a lot better than I would have (been) if she wasn’t here,” Bierman said. “I wouldn’t have tried as good as I could have. I probably would have (gone) a lot easier.”
Cannon Falls coach Ben Schopp said he noticed a change in Bierman midseason.
“She realized, ‘Hey, I’m not a junior high runner anymore,’” he said. “Ever since then, halfway through the year, she just hasn’t looked back. She’s grown up a lot in half a season.”
Bierman was asked to explain the transformation. Seated on the Skoglund Center basketball court during the awards ceremony, Bierman didn’t say anything. She just tilted her head in Trost’s direction.
Trost and Bierman do more than just push each other in practice.
“They’re joking around in the car (to the race),” Schopp said. “And they can talk about things that aren’t related to cross country. That’s helped a lot. That’s just huge.”
Bierman’s finish exceeded even the wildest expectations. She started the season running junior high meets and she placed fifth at the Section 1A meet Oct. 29. Schopp said he had hoped both girls would finish in the top 40.
“I started counting the people in front of me (at about 1 1/2 miles) — I could see them lined up — and then I was like, ‘Whoa! What am I doing up here?’” Bierman said.
Trost attributed her success to her faith. Before the race she read from “Heart of the Wilderness” by Janette Oke, a writer of Christian fiction.
“Sometimes when I’ve been running I ask God to help me and give me strength,” Trost said. “I think he’s really been with me and helped me get the courage that I need for cross country racing.”
Trost’s competitiveness also was a factor in the outcome. After completing the course’s second loop near Ytterboe Hall, Trost heard someone say the pack of runners 10 to 20 feet ahead of her contained the all-state runners.
“I remember thinking, ‘Well, we’ll see,’” Trost said with a chuckle.
She moved into the top 25 by passing Petra Nelson, a senior at Mountain Lake/Butterfield-Odin, in the straightaway leading to the finish.
Trost beat Nelson by .2 seconds.
“I can’t stress enough — I’m so happy with the way things turned out,” Schopp said.