SOLON SPRINGS — On Aug. 27, the Solon Springs/Northwood cross-country team was out on a training run led by junior Dylan Taggart, fresh off his first place finish at the Oredocker Invitational in Ashland, when the run abruptly stopped.
Taggart sprained his ankle.
With high hopes for his young team, Eagles coach Dale Rajala needed someone to step up until their key runner got healthy. Despite only being a sophomore, Isaac Dickenson was ready for that challenge. Ike, as Rajala likes to call him, responded by winning the team’s first race without Taggart, the Bruce Invitational on Aug. 30, with a time of 18 minutes, 19.6 seconds.
“Bruce was definitely a turning point for Isaac. We lost Dylan, and Ike stepped up took the reigns, and led by example,” Rajala said.
Fellow sophomore Silas Kidder also finished in the top 10, putting the Eagles in third behind strong teams in Philips and Chequamegon.
It can be difficult to see something like running as a competition, but Dickenson said it changed his outlook on the sport.
“I’ve ran since second grade but got more aggressive in the competition, because I wanted to keep winning,” he said.
Similarly, Taggart didn’t begin “to put it all together” until seventh grade, a year after he started running.
Now, their competitive streaks push them to work hard, which is something their teammates respect, Rajala said.
“I feel the team follows Isaac and Dylan well because they are both competitive and they show what hard work can do,” Rajala said.
The connection Taggart and Dickenson have while running has been on display since Taggart returned Sept. 13. They were part of the Eagles team that finished 11th at the Rice Lake Invitational on Sept. 13. Neither runners missed a beat and both finished in the top 15.
“Knowing that I can still run at the level close to what I was running at before (the injury) relieves a bit of stress,” Taggart said, and added he is still looking forward. “Overall I’m happy with the past week , I’m looking forward to putting in the work to keep getting better as the season progresses.”
At the Gunderson Invite in Mercer on Sept. 15, Taggart (17:52.2) and Dickenson (17:59.6) finished first and second, respectively. Their times were more than a minute faster than the race’s third-place finisher Alex Rasmussen of Drummond. Solon Springs/Northwood won the event with 20 points as Tarver Sellwood and Kidder finished in the top five.
Taggart and Dickesnon have a kindred competitive spirit in Minnesota Duluth runner Owen Dickenson, Isaac’s older brother, who also ran for the Eagles. Owen has given Isaac and Taggart plenty of advice.
“Owen being (nearby) at UMD has really helped because he’s told me many tips and we can use the same training plans,” Isaac said.
Taggart reached out Owen after watching him run in middle school.
“I remember watching Owen and just trying to do everything he did,” Taggart said.
And even though Owen is at UMD, that doesn’t mean the friendly competition between the brothers has ended.
“Isaac ran faster than me in the Ashland meet, but in Bruce, I did have a faster time as a sophomore,” Owen said, to clarify.
All joking aside, Owen said he’s happy to give advice to the younger runners.
“I just want to pass on the knowledge that can help create a great running culture and legacy at Solon,” Owen said about the current Eagles.
For Isaac and Taggart, their ultimate goal is for the Eagles make it to state as a team, they said.
Taggart finished 26th as an individual runner at the state meet last season. Running at that level is something the junior won’t forget.
“My favorite memory is going to state last year,” he said. “The whole atmosphere and the support from friends that made the trip down.”
He’s set the bar high, eyeing the top 20 as his individual goal.
Isaac is looking to follow in his brother’s footsteps. He checked off one of those boxes by earning his first solo meet victory at the Bruce invitational. He also hopes to qualify for the state meet as an individual if the team doesn’t achieve its goals.
In the meantime, Isaac is glad Taggart is back.
“It was really fun having someone to run near — it can get lonely in the front, and having Dylan there with me helped push us to finish stronger,” Isaac said.