MT. PLEASANT — The road to the state cross-country meet isn’t always paved with lucky breaks and good cheer. Sometimes, it’s paved with adversity.
Abby Blint didn’t have the easiest path to the 2020 state meet. She battled an ankle injury early in her first year as the Panthers’ No. 1 runner, and ran on a squad that frequently saw setbacks with injuries and COVID-19 quarantines.
When the time to perform came, Blint answered the call. With a 12th-place finish at the Class 3A qualifier in Monticello, she earned her first ever spot at the state meet. “We’re feeling good,” Blint said after her run on Tuesday. “The workout today felt good, so we’re feeling fresh. These last few meets I’ve just been doing better and better each time.”
Although Blint will be representing Mt. Pleasant alone, she has quite the team behind her, and that team includes two head coaches. Girls head coach Lyle Murray and Boys head coach Mitch Anderson co-coach the Panther squads, and Blint says having the duo in her corner helps her push through.
“I think it helps to have both because they’re both smart at different aspects of the race,” Blint said. “Coach Anderson was talking about using the corners as hills and pushing around them, and Coach Murray has the long distance mind.”
And although the full teams are no longer practicing every day, Blint has plenty of support in her workouts. Sophomore teammate Isabelle Meador, who finished just over a minute behind Blint at the qualifying meet, has been at her side in the week leading up to Fort Dodge.
“It’s nice that Belle has come to run with me,” Blint said. “Coach Murray and Coach Anderson run with me, but having Belle there is nice.”
Blint is a rare breed. Not many female cross-country runners will be trading in their running shoes for wrestling sneakers when winter comes around, but that’s exactly what she does every year. Blint has been the lone girl on the wrestling team, which is coached by her dad, Anthony.
“My endurance will play a big role in wrestling, and in wrestling when we’re doing our cardio, I can work on my running technique,” said Blint. “It helps me stay in shape for other sports.”
Perhaps wrestling and cross-country have more in common than one would like to believe. A common challenge for runners in Fort Dodge is dealing with the masses. Competitors often have to deal with the bumping and rubbing that comes with running in the pack, but Blint says she’s ready.
“My elbows are always sharp,” Blint joked.
Blint and the rest of the Class 3A field will race at 3:30 p.m., with the boys race following shortly afterward.