Brothers back to statePublished 10:58pm Saturday, October 26, 2013
Thursday’s Section 6A cross country meet showcased much of what has gone into the careers of Otter Tail Central runners Luke and Ben Himmelspach.
There was the top-five finish and, of course, qualification for the state meet in November. Leading their team and top finishes are two things the pair has become accustomed to.
But even more telling of their careers together is where they finished — Luke, a senior and older brother, in fourth place, one spot and one second in front of Ben, a sophomore (17:10 and 17:11, respectively).
Following right behind his older brother is something Ben has done for much in his life, including in his decision to run for the Bulldogs.
Ever since that decision, the two have used their sibling relationship to develop into two of the top runners in the area.
That has resulted in a number of close finishes between the two, much like at the most recent section meet.
“It’s not the first time that it’s happened, I just don’t let him beat me,” Luke said, grinning.
“He’s always there to push me,” Ben said. “I always know where he is and I just have to try and stick with him.”
As the two lone runners advancing to the state competition for the Bulldogs next weekend, the pair have a week to use that brotherly rivalry in preparation for Luke’s last race.
“It’s the same way as we always prepare, just keep running and training hard,” Luke said. “I’d imagine it would be pretty boring if I were going by myself.”
The two have had plenty of experience preparing for state meets, this being their third trip together.
Both Luke and Ben ran on the Bulldog team that qualified for the state meet in 2011. Last year, the two reached individually.
The brothers have been instrumental in the continued success for the Bulldog team after losing many of its seniors from the big year in 2011. That success includes the team’s fourth straight Birch Tree Conference title in 2013 (Luke won this years individual title. Ben followed in second.)
For head coach Bob Polzine, their drive together has contributed to their leadership.
“Number one, their both good leaders and hard workers. Luke has set the example and been a great role model for his younger brother and the rest of the team,” Polzine said. “It makes your heart warm, the warm fuzzies I’ve always called it, to have athletes that are willing to listen and willing to work hard and achieve goals they’ve made on their own.”
As Luke hopes to run in college and Ben prepares to take over the leadership role for the Bulldogs next year, the pair must prepare for something they haven’t experienced in years: running without each other.
No matter how they finish, this final state meet will be one last chance to celebrate what their time together has always meant.
“It’s having someone else with you, not just being alone running out there,” Luke said.
The Himmelspachs will run in the Class A State Meet on Saturday, Nov. 2 at St. Olaf College in Northfield.