City High senior Michael BergBy Ryan Murken Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – After two months centered on fitness levels and training, runners around the state shift their focus to one common goal leading up to the state cross country meet.
City High senior Michael Berg is one of those athletes narrowing his focus in preparation for Saturday’s Class 4A state meet at Lakeside Golf Course in Fort Dodge.
In the case of Berg, concentrating on one thing isn’t an easy task.
An exceptional student, a four-time all-state cello player and a key contributor on the Little Hawks tenth-ranked, state-bound cross country team, Berg has become well versed in the art of time management.
“It’s always been chaotic juggling all the things that I try to do,” Berg said. “It’s a good balance, it’s hard to prioritize one over another right now so I try to focus on all of them as much as I can.”
Berg began playing the cello at age three and is regarded as one of the best at the craft in the state.
A 4.0 student he earned a 36 on his ACT, become one of what City High cross country coach Jayme Skay recalled as a handful of runners during his 18-year tenure to earn the prestigious score.
According to Skay the success for Berg in academics, athletics or music goes hand in hand.
“You kind of have to be that way if you are a dedicated runner and you are disciplined to go out and do a 10 mile run at a tempo pace and you are pushing yourself and doing all the extra things we ask of them you have to be that way in class room,” Skay said. “You have to have some skills and some dedication and some intestinal fortitude that will push you through homework night and test and prep and he’s got it.”
This week running will have Berg’s full attention or at least most of his attention.
While every runner looks forward to the chance to run at the state meet Berg is a little more excited than most.
A key contributor the past three seasons in a City High program that has qualified for state 23 of the last 25 seasons Berg has never run in a state meet.
In 2014 the Little Hawks had a rare season in which they failed to qualify for state and Berg missed almost all of last season, including the state meet with an injury.
“I’ve never run at the state meet before I’ve managed to avoid it somehow for the past three years,” Berg said. “Now that I’m going to be able to run at it I’m definitely looking forward to that.”
An iliotibial band injury cost Berg nearly his entire junior season.
He spent the track season and summer working his way back into high-level shape and has performed at that level this season.
“We lost him all year last year which was a significant blow to the team so it has been so nice to have him back and competing,” Skay said. “I know he is extremely happy and feeling good about staying healthy and running where he knows he can be as one of the top runners on the team and in the state.”
Berg is performing at the best level of his career entering his first and only state meet appearance.
He finished 12th the Mississippi Valley Conference super meet in a career-best time of 16:03.1 and added a 15th place finish at the MVC divisional meet a week later.
He was 10th at state qualifier last week in 16:16.6.
“He is an extremely talented kid and not just running,” Skay said. “With academics and music he’s a very well-rounded and extremely talented kid and he puts a lot of time and effort in every one of those things, that’s what makes him successful in all of them.”
The return of a healthy Berg alongside fellow senior Matthew Dodge gives the Little Hawks a strong combination atop their lineup entering the state meet.
Dodge is ranked 20th in Class 4A by the Iowa Association of Track Coaches and finished second at the state qualifying meet in 16.02.5.
“We are definitely progressing as the season moves along and we are definitely significantly stronger than we were last year,” Berg said. “We are looking forward to see what we can do at state.”
Berg is looking ahead well past this weekend.
He hasn’t decided where he wants to attend college but is sure he wants to keep his busy schedule intact.
“I’m probably not going to continue running on a cross country team in college but I will definitely be running and I’ll definitely be playing cello and hopefully getting good grades,” Berg said. “I want to keep myself busy.”