Wade Krueger didn’t believe it when he heard his coach’s expectations for him going into the state cross country meet.
Then again, Krueger never imagined cross country would come so easy to him by the end of his three-year career, having not participated in the sport prior to his sophomore season.
But cross country became the St. Cloud Tech athlete’s sport and his focus.
“I’m a little newer to the sport but I’m happy with my decision to run cross country,” said Krueger, the Times all-area boys cross country runner of the year. “I’ve found cross country more enjoyable, overall.”
Achilles tendinitis kept Krueger from competition for the first six weeks of the season, which took away a lot of training time.
So when Tigers coach Greg Jamison told Krueger his expectations for the state meet, Krueger was skeptical.
“He said he thought I was in better shape than last year,” said Krueger, who won his first race back upon return from injury. “He gave me a lot more confidence going into state.”
Added Jamison: “I told him he could run it in 16:15 and he didn’t believe me. He finished strong and had a good sprint to the end. He was bummed he didn’t get all-state.”
Krueger ran a 16:13.5 at the Class 2A state neet Nov. 2 and finished in 28th place, three spots short of reaching all-state status.
But to come so close against the state’s best runners, many from the Twin Cities metro area, earned Krueger the runner of the year recognition. Krueger is the first Tech runner of either gender to earn the honor, first awarded in 1998.
“The practices and a lot of the experiences went go through as a team will stick out to me,” Krueger said. “We were always getting behind each other and pushing each other in those races.”
Before 2011, Krueger’s fall sport did require a lot of running, but also involved kicking a ball. Krueger played soccer for Tech and met Jamison, who taught Krueger’s pre-algebra class freshman year. Once Jamison heard how fast his pupil ran the mile (4:40 in ninth grade), he started to try to convince Krueger to give cross country a shot.
“He was a hard worker and a good kid and we wanted to get him on the team,” Jamison said. “We promised him he could still do both sports. I knew with a little bit of training and a little coaching he could do really well.”
Jamison won Krueger over, and Krueger became a two-sport athlete, balancing cross country with soccer in the fall of 2011.
Krueger qualified for state his first season in cross country, placing 55th in 16:35.2. He took 47th with a 16:22.4 as a junior.
Soon, soccer took a back seat and Krueger went full-time in cross country.
“I kind of saw a little success in cross country and I wanted to see what would happen if I was fully committed to cross country,” Krueger said. “I never liked being partially committed to either team.”
Added Jamison: “He was sitting on the sidelines a little more than wanted to (in his sophomore season). He figured if he just focused on cross country, he could put in more miles during the season and help him get to state.”
Krueger still has the track season to look forward to, and he’ll look to make it back to state. He qualified for the 3,200 and the 1,600 at the 2013 state meet.
After the track season in the spring, he’ll be a few months off from starting college, likely for kinesiology. St. Cloud State and Bethel are high on Krueger’s list, although competitive running may not be part of the plan.
Said Krueger: “I might be taking a break from running to focus on other priorities in life.”