Geist will be competing at the state meet for the fifth straight year.
It seems improbable, but Crookston’s most successful athlete in the fall season does not come from one of the school’s six fall sports. In fact, the Pirates do not even carry the sport. Despite the situation, Katherine Geist (Jr.), star cross country runner, rattled off five consecutive state appearances. Her most recent accomplishment: winning 11 races in a row and qualifying for her fifth straight state meet.
Geist spends a portion of her time training in Crookston, but can often be found practicing with the East Grand Forks Green Wave cross country team. In all other sports, the Pirates and Green Wave share a bitter rivalry. But for all intents and purposes, Geist and the Green Wave runners are teammates.
“Eight years ago, my brother and two or three other people went over [to East Grand Forks] because we kind of knew the coach,” Geist said. “She let us run cross country with them and it’s just been going on ever since. It’s super fun. We’re just one big team. We just don’t get to wear the same jerseys at meets.”
On any given week during the season, Geist will run six to seven days a week with a race taking place on one of those days. Training sessions consist of distance days, sprint days, distance and sprinting days and every now and then, a day off. By the end of the week, Geist says it is not uncommon to run 50 to 55 miles per week.
Running those lengths can do a number on the body and the stomach.
“I do a lot of epsom salt baths,” Geist said. “It’s supposed to help your muscles. It’s like a hot bath and then you put salts in it. I burn so many calories, I eat a lot of pasta over cross country season.”
Not only does Geist win her races, she dominates. In the five kilometer race, a spectator can often see Geist crossing the finish line 30 to 60 seconds ahead of second place.
Part of it stems from pure stamina. The other aspect comes from Geist’s style of racing. While some runners conserve energy and sprint at the end, Geist runs a three mile gut check from start to finish.
“I definitely do not hold back and sprint at the end,” Geist said. “I go really fast at the beginning and then I try to just hang on for the last mile and a half. It’s not the best strategy, and I know that, but it’s kind of how it works for me.”
Geist knows stronger competition awaits at the state level. In four stints at the state meet, Geist’s best performance came two years ago when the then-freshman placed 17th and ran a time of 19:36.
Even though Geist may not be leading the pack from start to finish when she runs against the best in Minnesota, the junior believes the competitive atmosphere can benefit her more than winning with ease.
“It think it’ll feel different, but I think it’s really going to push me to run my fastest times,” Geist said. “At state track, I really hadn’t run with a group before and it really pushed me. I’m hoping to just find people and stick with them.”
Matching the pace of other runners could be key in a course that demands an abundance of effort from the near-200 participants.
“It’s kind of tough,” Geist said. “There’s some small, but steep hills which isn’t too fun. But it’s always a fun race because there are thousands of people there screaming and yelling.”
Geist ran the fastest time of her career, 18:40, at Warroad on October 9 during the Northwest Minnesota Conference Championship Meet.
Throughout the entirety of the regular season, Geist only thought about times, paying little attention to placing. Now facing the season finale, Geist redirects her focus to achieving a certain placing among the field which would grant her hardware.
“I think I really just want that top ten,” Geist said. “I really want to be down to 18:20 to 18:30 or lower. That’d be awesome. I think if I get that time, that should put me around there. I really want a medal.”
The state meet will take place on Saturday, November 3 at St. Olaf College in Northfield. The starting gun for Class A girls goes off at 2 p.m.
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