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Cross-Country: Red Wing's Winn gears up for 1st state meet

Red Wing's Aiden Winn (right) passes a Northfield runner earlier this year at the Red Wing Invitational. On Saturday, Winn will compete in his first Class 2A state cross-country meet. R-E/file photo

Cold weather saps energy out of even the best runners, though don't tell Aiden Winn that.

The Red Wing High School junior enjoys running in the cold.

"Nobody likes hot, but I'd definitely say I'm a cold-weather runner," Winn said. "At sections, it was cold and rainy. A lot of other people get negative with that, but I like the cold weather."

Good news for Winn: Saturday's weather for the Class 2A state cross-country meet, taking place at St. Olaf College, is also expected to be cold and rainy. The forecast predicts a high of 46 degrees.

At the Section 1AA meet, Winn finished in sixth place overall in 16 minutes, 28.1 seconds, a personal record. It was the culmination of a year of hard work, one that saw Winn complete double workouts every single day. He arrived at school between 6-6:30 a.m. and ran three to six miles before the school day began.

"He kind of took it upon himself to run double days from August until last week," Red Wing head coach Jesse Nelson said. "He was running every morning by himself. That kind of discipline got him here."

Winn hopes his work ethic can also bring him an All-State nomination at the end of Saturday's race. The top 25 finishers make the All-State team and Winn said the toughest race is complete.

"I'm a lot less nervous than I was at sections," Winn said. "My main goal was to make the state meet. I'm still determined to get into the top 25."

"We'll try to run a personal best time," Nelson added. "He's familiar with the atmosphere of the day. I don't expect it to be an overwhelming experience. He's got nothing to lose. Top 25 is the goal. If he comes close to personal best time, he'll have a shot at it."

Former Red Wing runners Christian Leitner and Bryant Blahnik have provided Winn with advice in preparation of his first state meet. Leitner gave simple advice after his shoe fell off at last year's state meet: tie your shoelaces.

"I've talked to them both in the past about it," Winn said. "Don't get too caught up in the moment of the day. And tie your shoes tight. I think (Leitner) could have done better with both shoes on. It's unlike any other meet in the year, just be mentally prepared for that and do your best."

Winn has improved his time every week and that constant improvement gives Nelson optimism that Winn can achieve his goals.

"Aiden's been very stable," Nelson said. "He's been very even-keeled. Basically we'll continue the same plan, same routine that we've always had. We did plan on this. This isn't a surprise. We've built his training up for this."

When Leitner qualified for the state meet, Winn traveled to watch and he believes he's prepared to race despite his lack of personal experience. The atmosphere is different but Winn said he feeds off the pressure.

Winn also tapered his workouts and will work with Dr. David Asp to mentally prepare for the meet. Asp is a sports psychologist and assistant coach for the Wingers.

"For some reason I seem to thrive on it," he said. "The pressure of important meets helps me achieve my goals and do my best."

Winn's affinity for the cold is already a mental edge and he plans to continue to drop time Saturday in Northfield.

"To go into a meet like sections and state, knowing your body is rested and knowing you're at your optimal physical shape, mentally it helps a lot," Winn said. "I'm excited to see how I can perform again at St. Olaf and see how much time I dropped. I'd like to get under a 16:25 at the state meet."

Chris Harrell
Chris Harrell is a sports reporter for the Red Wing Republican Eagle. Previously, he interned at the St. Paul Pioneer Press and The Daily Caller in Washington, D.C. For updates on local sports, follow Chris on Twitter at @RECHarrell.
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