Adam Whelan, a math teacher at Moose Lake and a former good distance runner at Carlton, is excited about rebuilding new boys and girls Moose Lake-Willow River-Barnum (ML-WR-B) cross country teams and getting those teams to begin to be competitive with some of the top schools in the Polar League.
As of Tuesday, August 14, Whelan, who has completed two Grandma’s Marathons, had eight girls on his attendance sheet and 11 boys to work with. A few of those runners had run from 500 to 200 miles during the course of the summer and were ready and willing to voluntarily take on training runs of six to 11 miles and that came on no pressuring from the coach.
Those girls currently on the roster include the following: one runner from Willow River, seventh grader Lindsay Peterson; one Moose Lake seventh grader, Madelyn Stadin; two Moose Lake freshmen, Josephine Race and Nicole Tekippe; two Moose Lake seniors, Shaelyn Halverson and Keisee Stevens, and one Barnum senior, Janna Madden.
“I don’t really want to single out girls too much and put too much pressure on them,” said Whelan. “It could be that we will have some pleasant surprises even though we didn’t have quite the numbers that we thought we might have. As of right now there are no captains and we probably won’t be wanting to name captains; it will just be some of the older runners stepping up to lead some of the younger runners. Barnum senior, Janna Madden, I know is closing in on the their record in the two mile. Ninth grader Nicole Tekippe could likely break the track and field one mile and two mile record come track season. She showed lots of promise in the mile this past spring in the one mile and was only 10 seconds off the record in the one mile at 5:29. She could also be a two miler and could be pretty good as an 800-meter runner. She had solid times in all those events.”
While at Carlton, Whelan was in the distance program. “I ran distance while Vern Johnson was there,” said the new coach. “He was very, very good. I was perhaps above average, but not great. I did win some races under him. I ran mostly races from 800 to 3,200 meters and lettered all four years in track and ran cross country the last two years. I am trying to adopt many of his methods and philosophies and bring those to the ML-WR-B cross country team. Although I was on the top five that score points in meets I want to assure people, again, that I was above average but certainly not great. I was not among the elite; it was just that I loved the sport and want to bring that love here. I was able to run five flat in the 1,600. That was my favorite track event. I believe that cross country and track can help each other and I believe now that track is back on the map that we can put cross county on the map. We could be competitive with teams like Esko, Evelth-Gilbert and with other programs that have been good in the past Mesabi East. I’ll have to say that Zimny has good quite a job at Esko. He knows what he’s doing.”
Whelan talked about the boys, which as of Tuesday, August 14, had 11 on the attendance roster. “We should be more easily able to organize a boys scoring team as with the girls I don’t want to push younger runners up too fast to the longer distances. The hope is we could have more girls show up and I believe we have a couple of boys at camps or on vacations. The junior high kids run one to two miles. The varsity girls run 4K which is about two and one half miles. The boys varsity runs 5K which is 3.1 miles. We should have good top runners for boys. As I’d see it now, it could likely be Chase, Gage, Nick and Cole to score. Two others would be vying for the six and seven spots as those can be used as tie-breakers. That rarely comes into play during the regular season, but it more likely can happen at a section meet.”
The boys on the attendance roster showed good numbers. There are Moose Lake seventh graders Aaron Bode, Gage Mohelsky, Gavin Douglas and Ethan Olson and Barnum seventh-grader Tanner Varo. There is one Moose Lake eighth-grader, Joseph Bustrack, and there is one Moose Lake ninth-grader, Nick Furey. Brandon Ripley and Asa Spicer are spohomores from Moose Lake. Cole Buchanen and Chase Peterson are both Barnum juniors. Tyler Hoffmann, from Moose Lake, is a senior. Also on the roster is Moose Lake Area’s hockey goalie, Gage Mohelsky.
Whelan, who ran Grandma’s Marathon in 2005 and 2010 (26.2 miles) and also did a half marathon (13.1 miles) shared some times. “It was 3:45 in ‘05 in the full and I’ll choose not to share about the 2010 time,” he said. “I ran a half marathon once in one hour, 45 minutes. I was an above average, but not a great runner.”
“I’ve taught math here for four years,” Whelan stated. “There really is a lot of coaching in teaching and a lot of teaching in coaching,” said the math teacher and new head of the ML-WR-B harriers.“Last year I assisted with the track team here. I was head track at Carlton in ‘09. I am excited to have the opportunity and the chance to develop cross country teams here. I’d like to see the individuals make friends in competition with each other and to find new friends as they go to meets. I made friends for a lifetime. That’s another reason why I loved the sport. It was a friendly, even supportive bunch and that includes making friends from other schools. An example could be pointed out in Ben Moonen from Moose Lake and Kyle Blood from Silver Bay. When Ben set that new record in the 800-meter at state with that 1:58 they found each other quickly to share a mutual hug of respect and like of each other. In cross country, it’s like that, too. It’s everybody trying to better each other and to better their own teams and the individuals and teams from other teams.”
Whelan will coach his first ML-WR-B teams where his home once was as the meet is Thursday, August 23 at Carlton’s Chub Lake for an Invitational. The gun fires at 10 a.m. It’s a Virginia Invitational a week later on Thursday, August 30 at Virginia with a 2 p.m. start. That’s followed by a Pine City meet on Thursday, September 6 at 3:45 p.m.