While veteran runners rely on know-how and experience, a Northwestern freshman showed training and persistence are important ingredients for success as well.
Derek Boekelheide captured his first two varsity cross country wins last week. His first win was at the Faulkton Invitational on Wednesday, with a time of 17:56. Four days later, he helped the Wildcats to the team title at the Potter County Invitational in Hoven, winning that race in 17:51. For his efforts, Boekelheide is the American News Athlete of the Week.
Boekelheide, 15, was able to come out on top against some quality opponents, which provided both a feeling of satisfaction and an insight to his progress as well.
“I had ran against them earlier in the season and been close behind,” Boekelheide said. “I was happy I was able to beat them. I could see improvement in myself throughout the season.”
Boekelheide’s training regimen came into play during his victories, as he has been putting in as much as 25 miles per week. The team practices five days a week and Boekelheide runs one day of the weekend, while resting the other day.
“I kind of went out with the leaders and ran my race, and relied on my training and how good of shape I am in,” he said.
Running with the leaders during the race puts him in a better position to be a contender at the finish line.
“It’s way more fun to run (with the leaders) rather than just running mid-pack,” he said. “Every place counts when you’re up that high.”
The two meets were only four days apart, which normally would be quite a test for any cross country runner. Boekelheide was not only able to compete in both, but run well in both. A light training schedule between races helped.
“We didn’t have any kind of hard workouts between races, so I recovered pretty much by the next meet,” he said.
Every course offers its unique challenges, from hilly to flat. Derek noted last week’s were as different as could be.
“They were complete opposites,” Boekelheide said. “Faulkton is really hilly and Hoven is the flattest course we run. I like Faulkton’s course. It’s fun to run the way it’s set up.”
Northwestern’s coach is Derek’s mom, Kris Boekelheide. With the Wildcats having only one other varsity runner (Isaac Groft), Derek has to rely on getting enough from his workouts to be competitive from meet to meet.
“He had to learn to push himself and work hard,” Kris Boekelheide said. “I give him the workout and he does the rest. He’s very dedicated and devoted to what it takes to have a good season.”
This is Northwestern’s third season of cross country, and Derek Boekelheide encountered health problems during his first two seasons in the sport.
“He was coming off pneumonia his first season and a back injury last year,” Kris Boekelheide said. “This summer was his first summer to get some miles and it has showed this season.”
Derek Boekelheide credits his mom with being an influence in cross country, as her ability in the sport has carried down to him.
“She was always a really good runner, and that made cross country more fun because of what she did,” he said.
Family: Parents, Kris and Chad Boekelheide; sisters Hailey (12), Jessica (9) and Ella (5).
Favorite athletes: Distance runners Asbel Kiprop and Galen Rupp.
Favorite team: Minnesota Vikings.
Other sports: Basketball and track.
Hobbies: Doing Rubik’s Cube and fishing.
Advice to new runners: “Right away, it will be hardest until you get in better shape; once you get used to it and run some miles, it will be fun.”
Favorite athletic memory: “Qualifying for state in the two-mile in track last season.”