Sitting around one morning before his eighth-grade year, Wayzata’s Ian Eklin received a little prodding from his mother, Karen.
“I was involved in soccer in the evening, but I wasn’t doing anything in the morning,” he said. “My mom wanted me to get out of the house. She said I should go out for cross-country for the cardio. I did, and I’ve loved it ever since.”
Four years later, Eklin, now a junior, is one of the top runners for the Trojans. He recently achieved a personal best when he finished second in the Marshfield (Wis.) Invitational in a 5K time of 15 minutes, 58 seconds. It was the first time Eklin had broken the 16-minute mark in competition.
Staff writer Jim Paulsen talked with Eklin about his rapid development and how much better he can become.
Q: Why do you think you took to cross-country so quickly?
A: I’ve always like running. I was always one of the faster guys on the soccer team, so it came fairly easily. As far as endurance goes, I had a lot of work to do.
Q: What was your worst memory as a runner?
A: Last year, at the Swain Invitational [in Duluth], I was in a little dip. I was plateauing, and it hit me hard. I was running on the JV and trying to get to the varsity. I did a terrible race. I was on the brink of quitting. But my friends and my coaches pushed me to keep going. I’ve very glad they did.
Q: Your best memory?
A: The team has a tradition of going to Colorado to do high-altitude [training]. My fondest memory is getting to climb a 14,000-foot mountain and bond with the team. We push each other and develop a special bond.
Q: What is the toughest part of the Colorado trip?
A: It depends. Last year, in Colorado Springs, we did a run that was a mile straight up. We did it to see how fast we could do it. It’s just brutal. We did it fairly early in the day so the heat didn’t get to us, but the elevation made it tough on the breathing.
Q: Connor Olson is the top runner on your team. Where do you fall in the order?
A: I think I’m the No. 2 runner to Connor. And we don’t have a lot of seniors on the team, so a lot of us juniors have stepped up to take leadership roles.
Q: How does having Connor as a teammate help?
A: He’s clearly faster than the rest of us. He knows how to push himself to the limit and that gives the rest of us motivation.
Q: What type of preparation did you put in for this season?
A: The summer was all about putting in the miles. As a team, I think each one of us put in about 430. Connor, the runner extraordinaire, bumped it up to about 500.
Q: What are your personal goals for the season?
A: I had an individual goal of breaking 16 minutes, and I did that. My next one would be to get to about 15:45 or so.
Q: Team goals?
A: We were third in the state meet last year, which was a little bit disappointing. We went in confident with high hopes. I mean, we were still happy to be on the podium, but a little bitter about the finish, too. So this year we’ve come out our guns a-blazing and we’ve been killing it. We want that state championship.
Q: Running takes mental discipline. What do you think about?
A: Just putting one foot in front of the other.