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Benning places fifth at state meet

Make no mistake about it – Hastings High School senior Zack Benning went to the state cross country meet on Saturday to win it.

He was either going to do just that, or he was going to collapse trying.

Benning went out with the top two runners at a blistering pace and hung with them for more than two of the race’s 3.1 miles, but in the end, they pulled away and Benning fell back. He ended up placing fifth.

Through the first two miles, the lead pack was trimmed to just three runners – Obsa Ali of Richfield, Connor Olson of Wayzata and Benning. There was a good reason why the pack was so small – the three were running with a pace of 4:40 per mile.

At about the two mile mark, though, there was a bit of an uphill climb. When Benning hit that, the hill hit back.

“That’s when my legs started to really feel it,” he said. “They kept up the pace, and I just started to fall back.”

Ali won the 5k race in 15 minutes and 15.2 seconds.

Olson was second in 15:17.4.

Isaiah Barlow of Hutchinson was third in 15:32.7 and Jacob McDermott of Cretin-Derham Hall was fourth in 15:33.0. Benning finished in 15:36.2.

“When you’re running at that level, you’re going for the state title,” Hastings coach John Dewall said. “He gave it everything he had. If he had been going for third, he would have gotten third. He was there to try to win it.

“He had made the decision he was going out there to win. That’s what we wanted him to do. It was an absolutely phenomenal performance. We were very happy with how he did.”

Benning said he wouldn’t change his strategy and would do the same thing over again.

“I wouldn’t do it any different,” he said. “I was very happy with the way I ran the race.”

This weekend, Benning will likely see a number of the same runners. He’ll be competing in a regional event in Sioux Falls, S.D., with the top runners from the Midwest.

And, in college, he’ll likely bump into them again, too. Benning has recently made a verbal commitment to run at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he received a partial scholarship.

Between now and then, though, Benning has all kinds of plans for the rest of his days at HHS.

He’ll be skiing on the Nordic ski team this winter for the Raiders. Last year was his first year out for the sport, yet he earned a trip to the state meet. He’s aiming to get back to the state meet in the event this year.

In the spring, Benning will be lacing up his spikes to run track for the Raiders, too. He qualified for the state meet last year and was part of a very memorable 3,200 race.

Three runners finished in less than nine minutes (led by Ali) and Benning was just behind in 9:02.37, a time that would have won the 2012 state meet by four seconds.

“That was one of the most fun races I’ve been a part of,” he said. “Just last week, I went and looked at the video on YouTube. My heart still races just watching that huge pack finish. It was incredible.”


Benning said that at the end of the day, it’s the competition that he likes so much.

“I’m a competitor,” he said. “That’s how I grew up. I think that’s why I like running – I like to get out there, work hard and compete.”

Benning’s parents are Jackie and Tom Daley and Pat and Juli Dorsey.

Team meet

The state meet was won by Wayzata. Three Suburban East Conference teams finished in the top 16 at the meet.

Stillwater was third, Mounds View was sixth and White Bear Lake was 16th.