Boys cross-country: Blahnik looks to cap career with state titleRed Wing cross-country coach Jesse Nelson has offered senior Bryant Blahnik the same bit of strategy before each race this season. As he passes out bib numbers and pins, Nelson reminds Blahnik to remove the earring in each of his ears so he adheres to the state jewelry rules. That's it.
By: Ryan Nilsson, The Republican Eagle
Red Wing cross-country coach Jesse Nelson has offered senior Bryant Blahnik the same bit of strategy before each race this season. As he passes out bib numbers and pins, Nelson reminds Blahnik to remove the earring in each of his ears so he adheres to the state jewelry rules. That's it.
The hands-off coaching approach has worked well for Blahnik. He placed first at the Section 1AA meet Oct. 28, earning his third straight berth in the state meet. Blahnik won eight of the nine races he entered this season. The lone blemish came Sept. 25 at the Roy Griak Invitational.
Before the third meet of the season, Blahnik said Nelson approached him and asked him what his plan was for the Rolf Melby Invitational.
"I told him, 'Coach, I run better when I don't have a plan,'" Blahnik said.
There wasn't much of a plan at the start of his junior year, according to Blahnik. He won his first five races and ascended to No. 1 in the state rankings. After his fast start, Blahnik said he and Nelson started to talk more about race strategy. Blahnik went on to finish 12th at the state meet.
"I think in the past we've over thought things and over analyzed things," Nelson said. "This year we just go out and compete."
Blahnik's only plan at this Saturday's state meet is to be spent when he crosses the finish line at St. Olaf College in Northfield. It's an approach he adopted after not meeting his own expectations at the state track meet in the spring. Blahnik missed his goal by in the 1,600-meter run by six seconds and finished 11th.
"I knew I hadn't really given it everything," Blahnik said. "I've seen guys just on their hands and knees after the race. And I'm just there nice and relaxed. I don't want to have another one of those state performances where I feel comfortable after a race."
He acknowledged that achieving that goal is harder than it sounds.
"Mentally it's tough to (say), 'I'm going to run until I puke,'" Blahnik said.