Matt Steiger Sept. 7

Matt Steiger glides to a first-place finish Sept. 7 in the Crazy Buffalo Invitational, hosted by La Crescent at the Pine Creek Golf Course.

La Crescent High School senior Matt Steiger is dealing with a left foot injury, but the Lancers ace runner feels he can still improve.

Steiger is ranked No. 2 in MSHSL Class A, and that’s where he ended up in last year’s state cross country meet.

Steiger’s senior year, however, hasn’t gone as planned.

The left foot started acting up in July, and that hampered how Steiger could train leading up to this season.

“I’ve slowed down the intensity of the workouts, and I’ve let it heal and it seems better than it has in the past,” Steiger said. “It’s been frustrating. I’ve wanted to get out on the road, and I couldn’t get out there.”

He took most of July off, and logged just 100 miles over the summer.

The injury has “popped back up,” according to Steiger, but he has missed just one race — the Rochester Mayo Invitational.

“I knew I really needed to get going again,” Steiger said. “I didn’t really panic too much; I knew if I put in the work after taking that month off, I could come back strong.”

Surprisingly, his times in 2017 have been just as strong as his junior year.

The Lancers were scheduled to run at Lewiston Country Club last Thursday, but that meet was canceled due to rain and lightning.

The last race that La Crescent competed in was Sept. 28 at St. Charles, and Steiger won the boys race in 15 minutes, 55 seconds.

“I always like going out fast, dialing it back in the second mile, then picking it up again in the third mile,” Steiger said. “I do like to change it up throughout the season. Some races, I go out easy. Some races, I go out hard.”

Steiger has competed in four races this season — and won all four. His fastest time set a meet record Sept. 7 at the Crazy Buffalo Invitational hosted by the Lancers at Pine Creek Golf Course.

At his home course, Steiger crossed the finish line at 15:49.

Steiger has stayed around the 15:50-mark this season. In his first meet this season Aug. 31 at Stewartville, Minn., the Lancers’ senior finished in 15:53, and on Sept. 19 at Lake City, Minn., Steiger’s winning time was 15:52.

“I think there’s room for improvement,” Steiger said. “I think I could run faster than what I am now.”

Dating back to last season, Steiger is on a five-meet regular-season winning streak. He won at St. Charles (16:44) last September.

His fastest time in 2016 was also at the Crazy Buffalo, as he finished in 15:32. He had a setback in the 2016 Mayo Invitational with a 16:32, but just like this year, Steiger mostly stayed in the 15:50 range.

“He’s got a nice total middle-distance runner package,” La Crescent coach Mark Abraham said. “He handles the pace well and he’s got good leg speed.”

Steiger developed a love for running as a little kid. His father, Scott Steiger, was a competitive runner, and Matt Steiger would join him for workouts and for 5,000-meter races.

“I feel like I had natural talent, because my dad was a good runner,” Matt Steiger said. “I had that going for me. I started running because he was a runner. I always knew I was going to be a runner. I kept working and I saw the improvements.”

At the 2016 state meet at St. Olaf College, Steiger was second (15:57) behind Mounds Park Academy’s Declan Dahlberg by one second. The top three finishers in the Class A race crossed the line within a half second.

“That was a crazy finish,” Steiger said. “It was a great finish. Hopefully it’ll be something like that this year.”

Steiger wasn’t disappointed at coming so close to a state title, as it was a major improvement on his 17th place finish as a sophomore.

But make no mistake, Steiger’s goal is to claim that Minnesota top spot next month.

“There’s always one more spot to get,” Steiger said. “That’s been my drive to get that final spot up there.”

The Lancers have one more regular-season meet, which is Tuesday at Oak View Golf Course before the state-qualifying meet.

Abraham has coached a number of strong runners over the years, but Steiger gets a high ranking from the longtime Lancers coach.

“In terms of mile time, he’s the fastest miler I’ve ever had,” Abraham said.

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