Just before the start of the girls 1,600-meter run at the Suburban East Conference meet, Park senior Bri Hensel was laughing, smiling and chatting with officials. While the rest of the pack was …
Just before the start of the girls 1,600-meter run at the Suburban East Conference meet, Park senior Bri Hensel was laughing, smiling and chatting with officials.
While the rest of the pack was standing at the starting line grim-faced, Hensel seemed to be having the time of her life. Maybe she knew something the other runners didn’t.
Hensel went on to run a 5:17.08, setting a personal record and finishing third in a very fast race. Analee Weaver of Stillwater won in 5:09.51 and Elizabeth VanLoon of Irondale was second in 5:14.41.
Hensel added a seventh-place finish in the SEC girls 800-meter run in a time of 2:25.02 finishing seventh. That time was slightly off her qualifying seed time of 2:22.36.
Those times and races showed how far and how fast Hensel has become over her Park career. Her improvements have been noteworthy.
Hensel is now in the Park High all-time record book with the second fastest time in the 800-meter run and the third fastest in the 1,600-meter run.
She already owns the all-time fastest time of 19:09 in the 5,000 meters set during the 2020 cross country season.
And she’s not done yet.
Hensel will attempt to go even faster as she competes in the 1,600 and 3,200 in the 3AA Section meet this week. The prelims and the 3,200 are set for Wednesday, June 9, at Prior Lake High School. The finals and the girls 1,600 will be held Friday, June 11 at Eagan High.
Despite her running accomplishments, Hensel has only run the two-mile once in her Park career, so jumping into the race at the section level will be a totally new experience.
While the 1,600 may be her best chance to go to state, the 3,200 is her favorite race.
“I’d say right now I like the mile just because I’ve been having some good meets running the mile, and probably the two-mile, too,” Hensel said. “The 800 is pretty fun but you know it’s shorter. I enjoy running longer distances.”
Despite her prowess on the track, cross country remains Hensel’s favorite sport. She’s likes the both the pace of long distance running and the ability to be out in nature.
“I enjoy the farther races,” she said. “It’s a little easier for me to run quick for longer distances than sprint for shorter distances. I’d say the 800 and mile are pretty short.”
The section schedule with a day between races, and the decision to go for the two longer distance races, should benefit Hensel as she makes a bid for the state track and field meet. Despite her accomplishments, Hensel has never competed at state in either track or cross country. Part of the reason why lies in the Covid pandemic which wiped out most of last year’s competitions. Another part is simply that Hensel’s improvement has come late, as she has matured as a runner. As a sophomore, her best time was 5:59 in the 1,600.
“Two years later she’s 5:17,” said Park girls coach Brad Narveson. “Incredible improvement. Just based on her hard work. She’s just worked super hard the last two years to get to this point.”
Narveson is hard pressed to determine whether Hensel is a better track or cross country runner. She’s earned all-conference in both.
“I would say it pretty even,” said the coach. “She’s a strong runner, cross country courses are good. She’s good on the hills. She has the endurance for the 5K.
“Her speed has really improved as well on the track to be able to run a 2:22 half mile you have to be pretty fast as well,” Narveson said. “I would say she’s pretty even.”
Hensel is such a good runner for several reasons, Narveson said. “She puts a lot of work into it. She has worked really hard the last two years. Not just with her training but with nutrition. She’s very coachable. She has a lot of support at home with her running. She’s got a great attitude. Every workout we do, it’s OK, yup, sounds good, let’s go.”
Hensel’s goals for the rest of the season are modest.
“I just want to slightly improve my times,” she said. “I just like to keep improving, setting goals for myself as I keep achieving them. I really just enjoy running and enjoy improving over times.”
Next season, Hensel will run cross country, indoor and outdoor track at the University of Minnesota-Morris.