EVELETH — For being a teenager from northeastern Minnesota, Andrew Larsen has competed against some of the best cross country runners around.
Larsen, who will be an Eveleth-Gilbert senior this fall, squared off against Minnesota’s best last fall in the State Cross Country Meet.
Fast forward to this summer and Larsen represented America and was taking on runners from across the world as part of Down Under Sports in Queensland, Australia.
Larsen ran two races in Australia — a 5K and a 5.7K — and did well in both. The E-G runner came home 10th in the All-American 5K on July 3 with a time of 18:59.60 and also finished 20th out of 2,753 runners in the 5.7K, which was part of the Gold Coast Marathon Series in Australia.
“It was a lot fun with just the different competition down there. You didnt know how good anybody was so it was just a real new experience in who you could be looking for.’’
Larsen, 17, found out the competition was pretty good.
“I went out there hoping that I could be out in that upper crowd,’’ which turned out to be the case. “I was happy with how I did down there.’’
He was especially pleased with his performance in the 5.7K, which led back to bonding with his new teammates.
“I think just the experience down there making all the friends. We were all always hanging out and walking around together. The friends probably helped with a positive attitude down there when we were running.’’
Flying across the globe just to get to the races in Australia was something new for Larsen. He flew from Minnesota to Toronto, then Vancouver and then on to Brisbane, Australia. His only previous flight was going to Florida for the E-G High School band trip to Disney in his freshman year.
“Being on three flights on the way down and three on the way back was a lot,’’ Larsen said. “I’m glad I managed to get some sleep on that flight from Vancouver to Brisbane. I think that flight was about 13 1/2 hours.’’
Once the Americans got to the hotel, they all “went out on a run that day just to try and loosen up our legs’’ from traveling. The 10-day trip included a little bit of training, as well, leading up to each race.
Outside of the training runs, Larsen and his teammates had plenty of free time.
“We had a lot of down time. We got to explore the city where we were staying (Surfer’s Paradise). It’s kind of a tourist town down there. There was a lot of cool places around there.’’
In addition, the hotel was just 1 1/2 blocks from the ocean, so the team went there whenever they wanted to. “So that was pretty cool.’’
Even though they were tourists, the Australians were really accepting of the Americans and that is something Larsen will remember. “Everyone down in Australia that we met was just super nice.’’
So were his teammates.
Once in Australia, the Americans were divided into 36-person teams and spent most of their time with that group.
“We got to know them pretty quick. Throughout the week I was hanging out with a whole bunch of different people on the team.’’ said Larsen said, who is still in contact with many of them. “We’re planning on staying good friends for a long time.’’
Getting back to the competition, the 5.7K will be remembered for being unusual.
“It was a little different knowing it was just over a 5K because that’s what we’re used to.’’
While it’s way different, he approached the race the same.
“I just kind of went out there like I would normally. I went out and tried to stick with the top pack. I guess I did all right. I just kind of ran it like I would a 5K. I was pretty happy with how I did.’’
Larsen also took the advice of his coaches in Australia. They knew he would be running near the ocean in the 5K and that it would be windy. With that in mind, they suggested Larsen draft off the other runners.
“I had to definitely draft off of someone while we were there because there was a bit of a breeze there.’’
Larsen is looking ahead to the fall season with practice starting on Monday. He believes his Australian experience will benefit him in the coming months.
“I think being down there with a whole bunch of new people helped with my confidence leading runners and helping some of the runners that were a little less experienced.’’
His goals for the season include getting back to the State Meet and also getting more athletes out for the sport.
The senior will be a captain this year, along with Robert Kelson, and is taking the duties seriously.
“We’re trying to be the best captains we can be this year.’’
Larsen also recommends athletes that get contacted by Down Under Sports to take advantage of the opportunity. The trip may be somewhat expensive and require fundraising, but it’s well worth it, he added.
“It’s quite an experience’’ and athletes should do whatever they can to get down there.”