by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
There was never a question, says Ryan Trapp, whether he and younger brother, Lucas, would be runners.
“My mom was top 15 in the state for Wisconsin in high school,” said Ryan, an Elk River senior, “and my uncles both are very big distance runners. We have been raised on doing fun runs on Thanksgiving and other random ones.”
Ryan, who debuted at age 6, is on pace for 14 letters, starting in seventh grade with track, eighth grade with CC and 10th with skiing.
The cross country season just completed was Ryan’s breakout year as both a runner and a leader. He qualified for state for the first time and was a big reason the Elks came out of nowhere to win the section title.
“If I had a team captain like Ryan every year, my job would be a lot easier,” said coach Mike Niziolek.
Trapp was determined to be 100-percent ready. Last year, he took a trip to Italy right before school and hadn’t run much. He got into shape during the season and ran well at the end, 13th-place at the section.
“This season, I lived and breathed cross-country,” Trapp said. He had a week-long camp with two-a-day runs in Madison, Wis., and continued daily runs with up to 50 to 60 miles a week.
“My attitude was make state or die trying. It’s always been my goal and this was my last chance. I didn’t want to regret it the rest of my life.”
Trapp took on a leadership role, checking with the guys to see if they were running, working with them to form a team spirit he said was missing in the past.
“We had that this year,” said Trapp. “From number one to 14, we were all good friends. That is what put us over the edge this year, and it started to develop during the summer.”
Trapp destroyed his 2011 times by 40 to 50 seconds on every course except one by 20 seconds in bad conditions. The 6-foot-2, 170-pound harrier placed 12th in conference (17:00) at Elk River Golf Club, up from 23rd last year, and eighth at section (16:41) at Princeton Golf Club, after just missing state twice with 13th- and 15th-place finishes.
He placed 89th among 176 at state with 16:45 last Saturday at St. Olaf.
Niziolek praised Trapp for “dramatic improvement” from last year and credited his diligence in workouts from early summer.
Asked his approach to running 5,000 meters hard, Trapp related that he listens to one song over and over on the iPod during warmups, gets it stuck in his brain, then sings it in his head through the race, a tactic he and best pal Cole Konczal came up with in junior high.
It helps “blank out the mind” and keep the breathing relaxed, he said. But it doesn’t block out the pain. “Races and workouts hurt very much, especially in the cold or extreme heat,” he said. On hot days you have to guzzle liquid to fight the dryness and burn in your throat. In the cold you fight the same things but get a bit numb.
In big meets, though, a certain euphoria sets in.
“At state, there were so many people cheering and the excitement was so great that I just ran. There is something very blissful about running in a big meet that can’t be put into words.”
His track highlight so far is qualifying for state in the 4-by-800 last spring with second place in the section, when he ran his best-ever split and slashed between two guys in front of him for the lead. Andover edged the Elks by .04 second and both beat the section record. “That still gives me the chills because it was an almost perfect moment in my life.”
He also had a first at conference in the 4-by-400 and fifth in the 1,600 run.
In Nordic, he placed 127th in conference and 36th in the section last year. Skiing is “just for fun” and the big highlight, he said, is a team trip to northern Michigan each year.
Lucas, a freshman, is the CC team’s star runner. Ryan, the No. 2, is frequently asked if it bugs him to have a kid brother who’s faster. “It did at first, but then I realized how anti-productive it was to only try beat a brother who’s also a teammate.
“He and I have always been really close, so I find it weird that people would think that … He is a freak runner. I am very proud of him and his accomplishments. Just like I know he is of mine.”
THE TRAPP SCORECARD
Personal file — Age: 17 … Family: parents, Steve and Mary Beth; brother, Lucas, 15 … Sports: cross country, Nordic ski, track … Academics: 3.71 GPA … Other activities: National Honor Society, LINK crew .. College plans: undecided where; biology major; track and cross country … Ambition: physical therapy or chiropractics
Favorite stuff — Class: nets & rackets … TV show: “Key and Peele” … Movie: “The Lorax” … Book: “Hunger Games” … Food: raspberries … Drink: grapefruit juice … Team: Green Bay Packers … Athletes: Steve Prefontaine, Nick Symmonds … Hobby: Photography … Best place visited: Switzerland