Two of Minnesota’s runners, Bethany Hasz and Anastasia Korzenowski, earned personal record times at the Big Ten Cross Country Championship meet in Lincoln, Nebraska on Sunday. Both had stellar performances, but Korzenowski’s outing especially shined given her young age.
As a redshirt freshman, Korzenowski has wasted no time in making an impact on her team.
“She’s had a great year overall, she came in last year and we redshirted her. She had some lumps and bumps like all freshmen do,” said head coach Sarah Hopkins. “This whole season, she’s obviously made a huge jump forward, and specifically at the Big Ten meet … she did exactly what I asked her to do.”
Coming from Chanhassen High School with a third place state championship finish under her belt, Korzenowski’s journey to the Gophers holds more than meets the eye. Although she took third place at the Minnesota high school state championship meet in her senior year, she persevered through some difficult times in her career.
“My freshman year of high school, I was diagnosed with Graves’ disease …. my thyroid produces too much hormones and so it affected my running,” Korzenowski said. “For that entire season, I was not doing as well as I had hoped to and I didn’t know why. Even though I was able to compete, I wasn’t competing at the level that I knew I was capable of.”
Korzenowski has since addressed her health concerns, and her performances on the trail have improved. She has high hopes for this year.
“For me, the biggest goal is getting our team to nationals, and then hopefully surprising people and doing better than they expect us to at the nationals meet. … I think our team has the potential to do well at a national-caliber meet just because that’s how we train. We train for peaking at the end of the season, I think it’d be the greatest way to end if we were able to go there and surprise some people,” Korzenowski said.
As a runner, Korzenowski looks up to Gabriele Grunewald, a Minnesota cross country alumna, who is well known for continuing to race professionally while battling cancer. At the University of Minnesota, Grunewald (formerly Gabriele Anderson) was the 2010 NCAA Championships runner-up in the 1,500 meter race. She did this after being diagnosed with adenoid cystic carcinoma on the night before the first race of her senior season. Since then, Grunewald has undergone multiple surgeries to remove her salivary glands, parts of her liver and her thyroid.
While their experiences aren’t identical, both Korzenowski and Grunewald have been reputable athletes in the Minnesota running community. Grunewald’s successes may be an indication of what is possible for Korzenowski.
“What she’s already done to this point is every bit as good as most freshmen we’ve ever had in the program,” Hopkins said. “We’ve just go to keep learning and growing every year, she can’t skip any steps … and try to make constant progress every season. And if she does that, I really do believe the sky is the limit for what she’s capable of.”