Two senior cross-country runners are showing the metro that the Burnsville Blaze means business.
Burnsville boasts the South Suburban girls’ and boys’ individual conference champions in Vivian Hett and Ali Ahmed.
“It definitely represents us well,” Hett said. “We’re not always at the top, but it’s good to have two wins.”
Hett has played a key role in rebuilding the Burnsville girls’ team. The Blaze won the state meet in 2007, the year before Hett arrived as a seventh-grader. That was a deep squad to replace.
“Hett, and the entire senior class, breathed a lot of new life into the program,” girls’ coach Charlie Burnham said. “Our roster has 15 seniors on it, and the last two seasons we’ve been deeper than ever before. Girls want to be on this team because of the kind of people they are and it’s had a huge impact on our success.”
Hett has had a tremendous season. Two of her races have really stood out for Burnham. One is the Roy Griak Invitational, where she finished ninth.
“Doesn’t sound that great until you realize this is practically a national competition,” Burnham said. “There were over 50 teams in her race and four of the girls that beat her were from out-of-state, some as far away as Colorado and New York. To finish in the top 10 at Griak is almost as good as finishing in the top 10 at the state meet.”
Hett’s other standout meet? The South Suburban meet, which she won Oct. 11.
“Vivian’s no stranger to winning races, but this is one that’s escaped her, and it’s the start of a pretty cool way to wrap up her high school career,” Burnham said.
Race day was windy and Hett stuck with the top group through the first mile. After that, once they reached some more sheltered terrain, the wind was gone and she took off.
“Going into it, I did feel a little nervous and felt a little pressure,” Hett said. “During the race I actually got a bit nervous, too, but after the first mile or so, I was OK.”
His two big wins
Ahmed matched Hett’s accomplishment. The senior won the boys’ championship in 16 minutes, 28.1 seconds on the 5,000-meter course. But that wasn’t his most impressive performance of the season, according to Jeff Webber, his coach. His resilience at the Burnsville Invite was something special.
He was behind for most of the race.
“I outkicked the guy when it came down to the last 300,” Ahmed said.
He won by 10 seconds.
“He showed tremendous mental strength that day,” Webber said.
Both Ahmed and Hett have been cornerstones in Burnsville’s cross-country program.
“I try to set an example for the younger kids coming up, mostly with my work ethic,” Ahmed said. “I’m there and I cheer them on during the races. I give them race strategies and talk to them a lot.”
Hett has done the same for the girls’ program. She insists the Blaze will be in good hands when she graduates.
“I think the future of our team is very good,” Hett said. “They’ll for sure be good next year and the year after that. A lot of them are still in junior high and a few are in high school. I’m not worried.”