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John’s Journal: In A Remarkable Race, Finn Finished

Nova Classical Academy Senior: ‘I Told Myself To Get Up And Go’

Posted: Saturday, November 6, 2021 - 9:17 PM


Finn Fall

Jakob McCleary of Perham took lead after Nova Classical Academy's Finn McCormick fell several times at the beginning of the home stretch. McCleary won the race and McCormick placed eighth, helping Nova edge Perham for the Class 1A boys team title.

NORTHFIELD – On a bluebird day at the first MSHSL cross-country state championships in two years, Finn McCormick was on his way to a gold medal.

The senior from Nova Classical Academy in St. Paul was about 100 yards from the finish line, holding a good lead over Perham senior Jakob McCleary as the rest of the 160-man field chased. That’s when Finn went down.

Coming up the 5,000-meter course’s final hill-- just before the straightaway that is lined with cheering fans and ends at the finish line – Finn went down and got up. Then he went down again and got up. It kept happening. Over and over.

I told myself to get up and go, get up and go, get up and go,” he said afterwards. “I fell like four times. My hips locked up at the hill. I didn't have anything left.”

And yet, somehow, with nothing left in the tank and hips that were not cooperating, Finn finished. McCleary zipped past him and led the field to the line, and six other runners got there before McCormick stumbled across. But he got there. No matter what it took.

He had never ever fallen in a race before Saturday, but he knew what he had to do. Get up and get going. Get up and get going. Reach that finish line.

“All I did was just get up and go, get up and go, get up and go,” he repeated.

He got up and placed eighth, which was vital to Nova capturing the team state championship. The Knights finished with a first-place margin of 122-128 over second-place Perham, which means if McCormick had finished 15th or lower – or not finished at all -- the Knights would have placed second or lower.

“Before he went down I was like, ‘I’ve got to really kick it up a notch,’ ” McCleary said. “I knew that at the last hill I would have to go all out. When I saw him fall, it was kind of hard to see that.”

McCleary’s time was 16 minutes, 09.64 seconds; Finn was 35 seconds back.

Before falling, McCormick had passed McCleary and knew he was in control of the race.

“It's hard,” he said. “I mean, I was pretty excited. Coming around that stretch before the hill I was pretty amped that I was in first. I knew I had dropped Jakob and it was just go, go go. But then when I hit the hill, like all of a sudden the legs locked and I went down.

“It was just like, ‘Get up and go, get up and go, get up and go.’ I heard people screaming that and that was kind of the only thing going through my head. … I put everything out there.”

Lost Appendix, Gained Glory

Emmett Gerres, a junior from Belle Plaine, didn’t seem all that astonished at his eighth-place finish in Saturday’s Class 2A boys state championship race. But go back a couple weeks to when Gerres was hospitalized, and his performance in even getting to state is remarkable.

Six days before the Oct. 26 Section 2AA championship race, Gerres underwent emergency surgery to remove his appendix. “It needed to come out pretty quickly,” he said.

He was in the hospital and missed the Minnesota River Conference meet but was back with his teammates for the section meet.

“I was pretty confident in my recovery that I'd be able to run,” he said. “I just wanted to so badly. I didn't think anything would hold me back.”

He obviously couldn’t run right after the surgery, but got a two-miler in the day before the section meet at Gale Woods Farm in Minnestrista. He didn’t feel great at the section race, which is not surprising. Oh, and he finished first.

“It was a completely different race for me because I'm used to leading,” Emmett said. “I had to stick back and just hold it out with a second-place guy until the last half mile. I didn’t feel great. I was able to finish and recover pretty good afterwards.”

And Saturday? “I feel fine today,” he said. “I didn't feel like it affected my race at all.”

From Last To Seventh

Two years ago, Isaiah Anderson was an eighth-grader running for Mankato East when he competed at the state cross-country meet for the first time. The ending was not all that pretty, because he was the last runner to cross the finish line.  

“I don't think I was ready for that,” he said Saturday. “It was pretty stressful.”

With no fall state tournaments held in 2020 due to Covid-19, it was two years before Isaiah returned to run at St. Olaf College. And boy, did he run, placing seventh in Class 2A.

“This time, I knew I was going to be trying to get a top 10 finish,” he said.

His time in 2019 was 18:35.2 seconds. His time Saturday was 16:13.90. He said he worked hard over the two-year gap between state championships, putting in a lot of miles.

Anderson finished second at the Section 2 championships, leading the Cougars to a second-place spot as a team and earning a trip to state. They placed eighth Saturday.

Great Sendoff, Great Ending

When Hutchinson sophomore Isabelle Schmitz left school on Friday for the trip to Northfield and some pre-race time on the course, she was given a royal sendoff. The only runner from Hutchinson to qualify for state, she walked down a wide stairway in the school commons area as the band played the Superman theme and her fellow students applauded, cheered and gave her high fives. (Video of the scene can be viewed on the @HutchActivities Twitter account.)

She returned home in equally super fashion as a state champion. Isabelle ran to a dominating victory in Class 2A, with her time of 17:59.4 topping second-place sophomore Olivia Goebel of Albany by eight seconds. The 2A girls top 10 included four sophomores, three juniors and three seniors.

State Champions

Class 1A boys

Individual: Jakob McCleary, Perham

Team: Nova Classical Academy

Class 1A girls

Individual: Amanda Overgaauw, Murray County Central

Team: Staples-Motley

Class 2A boys

Individual: Alden Keller, Breck

Team: Big Lake

Class 2A girls

Individual: Isabelle Schmitz, Hutchinson

Team: St. Paul Highland Park

Class 3A boys

Individual: Nick Gilles, Minnetonka

Team: Wayzata

Class 3A girls

Individual: Ali Weimer, St. Michael-Albertville

Team: Edina

Complete results can be found here: https://results.wayzatatiming.com/meets/11779

--MSHSL media specialist John Millea has been the leading voice of Minnesota high school activities for decades. Follow him on Twitter @MSHSLjohn and listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts. Contact John at jmillea@mshsl.org 

Finn Friends

Nova Classical Academy's Finn McCormick (center) with teammates and friends after the Knights won the 1A team championship.


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