Anoka senior Alexis Fritz cried after last week’s Class 2A, Section 5 race.
The tears were bittersweet. Fritz knew she qualified for the state meet as an individual but worried about the fate of her teammates.
“The team is such a family and I didn’t want to leave the girls,” Fritz said.
No premature goodbyes were necessary. Anoka won the race, qualifying for the state meet for the first time since 1988, coach Pete Tremaine said. The Tornadoes will be part of the 16-team field taking off down the course at 10 a.m. Saturday at St. Olaf College in Northfield.
Fritz spoke to Star Tribune reporter David La Vaque about her team’s milestone victory, why she feels like a mother and using Pac-Man as motivation.
Q: What was it like to win the section race as a team and be part of such a rare accomplishment?
A: It is really cool to have the whole team going to state. We have such a young team. This is the first year some girls have run cross-country. They almost feel like my kids [laughs]. I am so proud of every one of them because they all ran personal bests at sections. And my other captain, Lindsey Gast, had never been to state. She is my best friend so it was really amazing to have her come with me.
Q: You went to state four times previously as an individual but missed the cut as a sophomore because you were dealing with a stress fracture in your foot. The situation was out of your control but did it light your fire just the same?
A: For sure. My sister, Katelyn, won the section as a senior that year. So it was really disappointing to not be able to go state with her. I thought, ‘I have to make it to state next year.’ And my injury in general made me value how precious it is to be healthy.
Q: How many times have teammates asked you what the state meet is like, and what do you tell them?
A: They ask me all the time. I’m like, ‘It’s like another meet but it’s so much bigger. There are so many more people lining the course.’ Honestly, it’s the only race I ever get nervous for.
Q: I hope you didn’t tell them that.
A: I did tell them because I think they know anyway. It does help to have all the people there, though. I imagine all of them cheering for me [laughs].
Q: Coach Tremaine said when this team won the St. Michael-Albertville Invitational on Oct. 1 it was a huge lift.
A: We had never won that meet before and I remember thinking, ‘We can do this.’ It was cool to see everyone so excited and pumped for the rest of the season.
Q: I’m told you used Pac-Man as an example of race strategy. Did your team know who Pac-Man was?
A: Yeah, we knew who Pac-Man was. It was funny because Coach Tremaine’s quote was, ‘You want to be the muncher, not the munchee.’ I thought that was hilarious. But it’s how you need to be, though.
Q: This team packed it in exceptionally well at sections. Anoka had five runners finish at sections before some teams had three or four of their runners finish.
A: It was amazing. There were only [30.8] seconds between me and our fifth runner. I wish I would have been watching at the end instead of crying.
David La Vaque