Cade Ekstrom already has helped claim one state championship for the Madelia/Truman Jayhawks in the year 2012, when he joined Caleb Arndt, Leeroy Leal and Adam Cooling in winning the 4x800 relay at the Class A state track and field meet on June 11.
Now, four months later, the Jayhawks' No. 11-ranked Ekstrom is trying to race his way back to the state cross country meet.
Ekstrom has made the state meet before during his cross country career. As a sophomore, in his first year of running, Ekstrom raced his way to a 23rd-place showing at the state meet.
FINISHING TOUCHES — Madelia/Truman runner Cade Ekstrom nears the finish line during the Valley Conference cross country meet on Tuesday at Fox Lake Golf Course near Sherburn. The No. 11-ranked Ekstrom will guide the Jayhawks into Thursday’s Section 2A Meet in Blue Earth. Photo by Leanna Becker
"Cade is a gifted runner. From the very beginning, he understood the pacing, and running comes very easy to him," said Madelia/Truman head coach Pete Goeringer. "He also works very hard in practices and is a very competitive athlete. He doesn't like to lose."
"I wasn't so sure about running when I started, but then I had some success, won the (Valley) conference and went to state my first year and I just wanted to keep going," said Ekstrom.
In his junior year, Ekstrom was improving upon a solid first season, winning every meet leading up to the Valley Conference Meet for the Jayhawks.
With just a few weeks left in the season, Ekstrom's hip started hurting and forced him to stop running before the Section 2A Meet.
"Last season, we a good shot at going to state, we had a good group of guys running, but then I got hurt and we didn't make it," said Ekstrom.
This season, Ekstrom has raced his way into the top 11 individuals in Class A for a majority of the season and has him hoping to reach his second state meet.
Ekstrom has raced against some tough competition this season, including Valley Conference champion T.J. Schiltz of New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva.
At the NRHEG Invite on Sept. 18, Schiltz's push helped Ekstrom race for a new personal-best time of 15 minutes, 52 seconds.
A few weeks later on Oct. 4, Ekstrom defended his I-90 Invitational title with a time of 16:26 at Cedar Creek Park in Fairmont.
The No. 11-ranked Martin County West Maverick boys team also has proved to be a challenge for Ekstrom. Jonah Mayo led a Valley Conference team-championship performance with a second-place individual finish ahead of Ekstrom's third-place time in 17:14.
Madelia/Truman teammate Ricki Fenske helps to push Ekstrom in practices and in races, giving him a daily dose of friendly competition.
"When I started running, we had a great group of guys, and it made it really fun to come to practice," said Ekstrom. "I don't really like to be out front of everybody unless I have to, so it really helps to push you when there is someone up there with you."
Unfortunately for the Jayhawks and Ekstrom, his hip has started to become a problem, and both runner and coach hope it is not a repeat of last season.
"Last season, Cade ran on his hip with it hurting for three weeks before we knew anything. This season, he told me right away and we gave him a some days off," said Goeringer. "We just want to be able to see him finish the season and hopefully make it to state."
The Jayhawks will run in the Section 2A Meet at 4 p.m. Thursday at Riverside Town & Country Club in Blue Earth.
The top two teams will advance to the state meet, along with the top 10 individual runners.
"There are some tough runners in our section like Shane Streich from Waseca (No. 4-ranked) and it won't be easy, but I'd like to get back to state," said Ekstrom.