ST. PAUL - Glen Ellingson's plan throughout the 3,200-meter run was to stay close and stick with the leaders.
Those last 300 meters, however, he saw an opening and took it. Ellingson pushed through a pack of runners, knifing his way with everything he had. And when he got to the finish line, he leaned forward before falling down. A fall from grace? More like ascension into the record books, because that's what helped Ellingson become a Class 2A state champion on Friday.
The Moorhead junior pulled off one of the day's most thrilling wins, winning by one-hundredth of a second at the Minnesota state track and field meet at Hamline University.
"My goal was to medal, and when I woke up this morning I felt good," said Ellingson, who won the race in 9 minutes, 16.84 seconds. "I felt like today something was going to happen."
Something happened alright but it took a while for it to develop.
It wasn't like the Section 8 champ was leading the whole race. He just led when it mattered most. Ellingson opened the race with the pack and throughout certain portions was in second-to-last place.
Once the race reached the one-mile point, that's when Ellingson started making his move. He picked up his pace, and when it came down the last 300 meters, he was off to the races and, eventually, the podium.
"I had no idea I even won. Nobody knew for about 10 minutes," Ellingson said. "Until we got to the awards stand and when we lined up according to place, then they told us. I just kind of sat there and thought about it. I was kind of shocked."
Winning a state championship has been a process, but it has also been the result of what was Ellingson's most dedicated training campaign.
Ellingson, about a year ago, wanted to be better, faster and the type of runner who could help the Spuds win a championship at cross country and track.
So he ran. And ran. And ran. He ran 400 miles last summer, and when cross country season rolled around, he turned more than his fair share of heads.
"I don't know a lot of high school kids that have gone from someone hoping to be a varsity member to having this huge breakthrough as a legit No. 1 on a team that's pretty decent," said Moorhead assistant track coach and head cross country coach Jeremy Blake. "Now he's a state champion. Glen is a great runner and he's a great kid, and what he was able to do spoke volumes."
The breakthrough Blake referred to is this:
Ellingson helped Moorhead win a cross country section title by finishing second in that race behind teammate Lukas Gemar.
Ellingson kept it going by helping the Spuds finish second at state, and it didn't stop there.
He ran another 400 or so miles in the winter and, combined with his in-season training, has run more than 1,200 miles in nine months.
The work paid off by winning four 3,200-meter races before heading into the section tournament, where he won that event.
But of course, it all came down to what he did on Friday.
"The last thing I said to Glen before the race was, 'In this race a lot of things can happen,'" Blake said. "I also told him, 'Don't ever forget you are a top-five guy in Minnesota.'"
With his coach's advice and months of training, Ellingson remembered he was more than just a top-five guy.
He was a runner with talent that could medal and possible make an impact.
Instead, at the state meet, he made a statement.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Ryan S. Clark at (701) 241-5548.
Clark's Force blog can be found at slightlychilled.areavoices.com