If the words Jenny Hess (smiling after finishing the race) sputtered out while collapsed on her knees after her first cross country race had held true, Minnesota would have a different state champion than it does this year.
Though, fortunately, she went back on her hasty vow to never run again, she has remained steadfast in her dedication to the sport of cross country. As a freshman, her hard work and competitive spirit earned her All-State honors with her 24th place finish at the state meet.
After her strong showing of third place at last year's state cross country meet, Jen came back this season more inspired than ever and ran the entire season undefeated. She won all seven regular season meets, including the Princeton Invitational, the largest high school cross country meet in the world. She went on to become the conference champion, cruised to victory at subsections, and was unfaltering again at the section meet.
Jen remained unchallenged throughout the entire season, easily winning every meet—but that ease came only through lots of hard work. "Jen Hess works harder than any other runner I've coached in 28 years," said Coach Carstens.
Jen did several interviews with the state media after her win. She was the Channel 11 athlete of the week.
Her hard work paid off at this year's state cross country meet, where she blew away Minnesota's most elite runners. Before her spikes had trodden 800 meters, she was in the lead. The gap grew larger as the race progressed, and at the end of the race she dashed to the finish amidst hundreds of cheering spectators, without another competitor in sight. Jen takes all of the attention in stride—along with being the fastest runner in Minnesota, she is also likely the most humble.
Jen has been accompanied in her quest for success by seventh grader Brooke Schmitz. Brooke has also displayed the hardworking qualities of a champion. As a sixth grader, she practiced with the team all year long and competed in numerous junior high and junior varsity races, winning many of them, though by the rules she was not yet allowed to receive an official place.
This season Brooke (pictured running at right) has run in the deep footsteps of state champions. "I'm thankful to have Jenny as a role model," said Brooke. At the conference meet Brooke was runner-up, only 20 seconds off the pace of Minnesota's individual state champion, teammate Jenny Hess. At subsections she ran at the front of the race, placing sixth behind the pack of state champion NL-S Wildcats; at sections she once again ran to sixth with the same front pack.
At the state meet, her strategy was much the same: stay with the NL-S pack. She did. She ran a strong race all the way to the end, and placed 25th to earn All-State honors. Brooke was the top seventh grader at the Minnesota state cross country meet.
< While perusing the results of the state meet, it is worth noting that both championship teams came from Section 6A, and that the overwhelming majority of the top individual runners also came from Section 6A. It is in this same section that teammate Kim Hess was only two places short from a spot at state. Kim's time at the section meet would have put her easily inside the top 50 individuals at the state meet.
With the defending state champion Jen Hess, All-State runner Brooke Schmitz, and All-Conference runner Kim Hess returning next season, the welcome addition of any new runners certainly leaves the possibilities for an impressive team show at next year's state meet wide open.
1. Jenny Hess -14:56
25. Brooke Schmitz -15:53
1. New London-Spicer -81
2. Minnehaha Academy -128
3. Visitation -136
4. Jackson County Central- 139
5. Rochester Lourdes -151
6. Saint Cloud Cathedral- 153
7. Sauk Centre -159
8. Wrenshall-Carlton -203
9. East Grand Forks -237
10. Perham -242
11. Big Lake -265
12. Lewiston-Altura -277
13. Hermantown -293
14. Murray Country Central- 306
15. Blue Earth Area -329
16. Madelia-Truman -359
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