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Saline’s Praschan crosses the finish line on great career

Photo by Burrill Strong Saline’s Grant Praschan gets his medal after taking 17th at the State Finals at MIS.

Saline boys’ cross country coach Carl Spina remembers the first time he saw Grant Praschan run.

“I knew Grant would be a great runner the first time I saw him race back in eighth grade track,” said Spina. “He was running the mile I think, and he was just having fun outrunning people. He didn't really care about pace or time or anything. He just ran to win.”

Praschan has been turning heads – and running to win – ever since. The 17-year-old Saline senior finished a team-best 17th at the State Finals last Saturday at MIS to help lead the Hornets to an impressive sixth place finish in Division 1.

“It was one of the best individual performances that I have seen from a Saline runner,” Spina said. “It wasn't just fast. He took every advantage of the course, the competition, the conditions, his training. He lined all of those things up on Saturday and made it as close to perfect a day as you could imagine.”

In other words, he’s come a long way since eighth grade.

“We had a pretty specific plan for him before the race, and he hit the times almost perfectly through the mile and the two mile. When he hit the two mile mark in the race, he was a lot further back than we planned on him being, but he just attacked it. He didn't panic or anything. He just dug down, found another gear, and went after the guys in front of him.”

Praschan enjoyed his run at MIS. And that’s part of his success. He enjoys running and the challenges that come with it, especially taking on the best in the state.

“It’s exciting to know you’re running against the best and you find out how you compare against them, but it’s also very nerve racking because you want to do well,” he said. “The course at MIS is fast and very competitive. And the last 1200 meters is very hard because you can see it the whole time.”

While cross country is both an individual and team sport, Praschan was especially proud of how well the Hornets did this past season. To finish sixth best in the state is an incredible accomplishment.

“We proved a lot of people wrong,” he said. “We were counted out and really improved as a team. Personally, I improved and achieved a lot of my goals. But I still feel like I could have done better and didn’t quite get all my goals.”

The reasons for their success are simple.

“We had great team chemistry,” he said. “We wanted to win for each other. We have dreamt together, trained together, won and lost together. We made a commitment to our team and each other.

“We were a very close group. It’s important because it helps you trust each other and want to win for each other and work together.”

Praschan first got interested in running cross country because of his father. “My dad ran and one day I saw all the medals he had won and thought I would give it a try,” he said.

His best time as a freshman was an impressive 17:35. He went 16:19 as a sophomore and made All-Region and All-Conference.

“As a freshman, he was like a playful puppy,” Spina said. “He was just starting high school, having fun, making friends and he didn't take his training very seriously. He had all the tools at race time, but his training was not what it should have been. He figured it out over the next few years, had a pretty good sophomore year, and then got injured right in the middle of his junior season.”

Praschan was running really well as a junior and was on course to break 16:00. Then he sprained his ankle and never really bounced back to where he was before the injury. He ended up running 16:35 at the state meet that year, which wasn't bad considering the injury.

Despite the injury, Praschan still earned All-Region and All-Conference honors.

“A turning point for him was this past spring, in the regional championships for track,” Spina said. “He was in the 1600 and he wanted to qualify for the state finals, which was kind of a long-shot for him. But he went into the race wanting it and believing it could happen. He put himself into a position to do well, and when the race broke, he was the guy that took the last qualifying spot. It was a lot like this past Saturday. He just went and took what he wanted.”

This past season, Praschan’s best time was15:40 and he earned All-Region, All-Conference and All-State honors.

“This fall, he was consistently productive for us,” Spina said. “He was part of our top three runners every race and was usually our top guy. Against the best teams, he was always picking up medals and trophies.”

Praschan said a turning point this year was the Portage Invitational.

“That was the race that stood out for me this year,” he said. “It was the first time I broke 16 minutes. It was a big PR, and after that race it gave me the confidence that I could place well at States.”

Off the track, Spina says his standout runner is “pretty gregarious.”

“He always has a group of friends around him laughing and having fun,” Spina says. “He loves being with his teammates. And they love being around him. Cross country is unique in that we don't have separate varsity, JV and freshmen teams. We just have one big mass; freshmen and seniors, fast kids and no-so-fast kids, all together. Grant was all about all of them. He'd put his arm around a freshman just as quickly as his best friend.”

That kind of personality is always a joy to not only coach but be around.

“Grant's the kind of kid that every coach wants on the team,” Spina said. “He can make the slowest kid feel like the most important person on the team, he can challenge his teammates when they don't do their best, he is excited to be with his teammates every day, and when it is time to work hard, he's excited about that too.”

Praschan has never backed down from hard work. He says the motivation to run and push himself comes from his teammates.

“Knowing that at the line at the state meet, I can look my teammates in the eyes and tell them I did everything I could to prepare myself to do the best I could for the team,” he said explaining where his motivation comes from. “Being All State and a state champion is what I have been dreaming about since I began running as a grade schooler.”

And with the hard work came success.

“I could not have come this far without my teammates, coaches, family and friends,” Praschan said. “Without my teammates and coaches, I could not have come this far. My success is as much there’s as it is mine.”

Last Updated: 11/14/2012 4:18:26 PM EST

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