He took up soccer, a sport he had played. But the day he decided to run, he found out he had a gift.
Ali had battled injury and the flu just a few weeks bef
ore the state cross-country meet. He was questioning himself, so his coach gave him a talk.
“I just couldn’t do anything, so I was doing 20-minute runs every day. And then I didn’t know if I was going to get top ten, so my coach took me down there and then gave me this speech or whatnot,” Ali said. “My confidence came back.”
Marty Huberty, coach of Richfield’s cross-country team, says his advice was simple.
“The pep talk was we went up to the top of the hill, the last 200 years, and I’m like, ‘Visualize this as you’re coming down the straightaway and stuff. Don’t turn around, just look straight ahead,’” Huberty said. “We also knew the last 400 yards was all grass. If he just kind of played it smart, like he did…the last 400 yards, his speed is just unbelievable.”
He went on to win a state title, and he now has his sights set on running in college.
“I’ll go to a university hopefully,” Ali said. “I’m either down to Wisconsin Madison or Minnesota.”
Ali won the state meet despite losing his shoe a quarter mile from the finish.
On Saturday, Ali will run in Sioux Falls in a national competition, along with many other Minnesota runners.