November 01, 2017 08:28 PM
(ABC 6 News) – This weekend, two runners from Rochester Century will compete in the Minnesota State Cross Country meet—and for one of those runners, running in the state meet has become a tradition.
Alyson Welch, a senior for the Panthers girls cross country team, is no stranger to state.
“She’s just super durable, and a great athlete,” Panthers head coach Joey Keillor said. “The energy she has spills over to the rest of the team too.”
For Welch, running isn’t just a hobby, it’s a way of life.
“I really like running,” Welch said. “I don’t just like the feeling afterwards, I like doing it and I think the race is super exciting.”
Cross Country though isn’t just about running—Welch said there’s a lot of “time and strategy” which goes into the sport.
“You have to be dedicated and willing to put in miles during the summer and all year-round,” Welch said. “I think what it comes down to is that mental determination when you’re in the middle of the race and who can push their body the farthest.”
Her mental determination has paid off—following a top-five finish in the Section 1AA girls cross country meet in Owatonna, Welch clinched a spot in the Class AA girls cross country meet for a 4th straight season—something which she said she “kind of” takes for granted.
“I kind of take it for granted just a little bit,” Welch said. “But once you get there and you’re on the starting line, it’s just as exciting. It’s very motivating for me to go back year after year and I’ve just kind of built on that as the years have progressed.”
Welch’s best finish at state was a 19th place finish as a junior (2016), but this season, she’s improved—earlier this fall, she won the Big 9 Conference meet.
“She’s more experienced, she’s tougher (compared to her previous years),” Keillor added. “It was a lot more difficult for her to go out hard and really compete with the best, but now she can get out there with the best runners in the state and slug it out.”
“A lot of girls are good when they’re younger, but Alyson has been durable since she’s been in 8th grade. She almost never gets injured and she’s very smart about her training. Her being smart and having a durable and physical body allows her to progress year after year and get better and better.”
Keillor said Welch has also improved dramatically on her “finishing kick,” something which Welch has been working on for a few years.
“Alyson has out-kicked girls that are faster than her on the track, but in a longer race, she has that endurance and at the end of the race, she feels better,” Keillor said. “She’s gritty and she can make it happen. She’s never out of the race.”
“There’s a lot of strategy involved in it,” Welch added. “How fast or hard you go out, effort-level along the way, your finish, that’s something I’ve been working on for years. I’ve been able to sprint some people out in the last few meters lately.”
Besides cross country, Welch is a Nordic Skier in the winter, and runs the one and two mile races in the spring for the Panthers’ track & field team.
Over the years of running and training, Welch’s hard work has turned into a passion—and a love for running.
“She loves every aspect of cross country and running,” Keillor said. “She loves the fun stuff, she likes the stuff that isn’t as fun, she loves running on beautiful days, she loves running on days that are miserable. Her spirit is going to carry through for years to come.”
Welch hopes to continue running, or skiing, at the collegiate level. Welch said she is thinking about attending Montana State University, Michigan Tech University, or the University of Minnesota-Duluth next year.
Welch’s teammate, junior Helen Li, will also compete in the Class AA girls cross country meet. The Class AA race is Saturday at 10 a.m. at St. Olaf College in Northfield.
Updated: November 01, 2017 08:28 PM
Created: November 01, 2017 05:11 PM
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