Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of four articles leading up to the weekend of the Brookings Marathon May 11-12. For more information on the races, go to prairiestriders.net.
Mountain Lake, Minnesota, a town of just 2,100 people 120 miles southeast of Brookings, is showing up in a big way at the Brookings Marathon.
For the past three years, Kyle Blomgren, 53, of Mountain Lake, has organized “The Running Bees” relay team with his wife Kim, twin sons Kyle Jr. and Adam, 23, daughter Liana, 19, and youngest son Ryan, 17.
Blomgren returns for this year’s May 12 Brookings Marathon Relay with new teams formed by the Mountain Lake High School cross country team: Mountain Lake Mile Munchers 1, Mountain Lake Mile Munchers 2, Mountain Lake Mile Munchers 3 and The Band of Brothers. They are four of the 50 teams entered in the relay.
Revising the family tradition
Blomgren was born in Brookings and his son Kyle Jr. recently graduated from SDSU. Blomgren’s connections to Brookings drew him and his family to the Brookings Marathon Relay in 2015.
The Blomgren family was unable to put together their “Running Bees” team this year because Blomgren’s daughter Liana will be away at college. Blomgren and his youngest son Ryan decided to instead reach out to the Mountain Lake High School cross country team to form a relay team.
Blomgren has been the head cross country coach at Mountain Lake High School for three years. Previously, he was the head coach for 20 years at St. James High School in St. James, Minn.
He did not participate in cross country as a youth because his high school, Butterfield-Odin High School in Butterfield, Minn., did not have a team at the time. However, he is a lifelong runner and his passion for running led him to pursue cross country coaching after graduating from Minnesota State University, Mankato in 1990 with his elementary education and coaching degrees.
“It’s been a great way to connect with kids and help them learn to believe in and dedicate themselves to their teammates,” he said. “Those life lessons teach us how to dig deep later in life.”
Inspiring training and friendship
Blomgren thought the Brookings Marathon Relay would be a great way to kick off summer training for the upcoming cross country season. The race will be in place of the weekly long run for the athletes currently in track.
The Minnesota State High School League states that high school athletes can compete in running events such as the Brookings Marathon Relay during their track season as long as their race is significantly different from their track event. Blomgren made sure the teams’ racing plans are compliant.
He told his athletes to take the race easy. The focus is on team building and having fun.
“We were going to possibly get a guys’ team and a co-ed or girls’ team also,” Blomgren said. “When I put word out about the event, we had lots of interest and were able to put four teams together. It far surpassed any of my expectations.”
Sophomore Paxton Morin, 16, was interested in joining a relay team because he is ready to kick off his cross country training, loves the adrenaline of racing and enjoys spending time with teammates.
“It’s just another chance to run with my best friends,” he said.
Team members will cheer on their teammates throughout the day then relax and enjoy each other’s company in Pioneer Park after the race. They plan to enjoy their first ever Nick’s hamburger.
“The relay, in particular, offers runners a chance to experience a big race without running (or training for) the full marathon,” race director Matt Bien said. “Many enjoy the competition and comradery of running and cheering their team on throughout the day.”
Coach bringing in ‘mystery runner’
The Mountain Lake relay teams will be joined by Arlington Schlabach, 16. Schlabach moved away from Mountain Lake to Guthrie, Oklahoma, two years ago. She will be flying in to surprise her former teammates and join them in the relay. Coach Blomgren has kept this surprise from his athletes and their parents by referring to Schlabach only as “mystery runner” in all race planning.
“That surprise will actually be one of my favorite moments of the weekend!” Blomgren said.
The marathon relay is broken into six segments: 4 miles, 5 miles, 3 miles, 5 miles, 3 miles and 6.2 miles. Blomgren tried to let his athletes select their racing distance.
“Some had to either step up and run a bit farther than they preferred,” he said. “Others had to drop down to run a shorter distance to keep the “whatever the team needs,” mentality in their focus.”
Blomgren can’t predict if the Mountain Lake High School cross country will form future Brookings Marathon Relay teams.
“I would hope the experience they have will bring them back,” he said. “I know my family will always try to participate in some capacity.”
Above, members of The Running Bees, the Kyle Blomgren family of Mountain Lake, Minn., gather after the 2017 Brookings Marathon Relay. Pictured, from left, are Liana, Ryan, Kyle, Kim, Kyle Jr. and Adam Blomgren.
Below, members of the Mountain Lake High School cross country team gather after a Saturday run this past fall. Their coach, Kyle Blomgren, has organized four six-runner teams to compete in the Brookings Marathon Relay on May 12.