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Aaron Hagen/Daily Globe Murray County Central's Laura Christensen runs past a Pelican Rapids runner during Saturday's state cross country meet in Northfield.

Christensen finishes sixth individually in 15:03

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NORTHFIELD -- Running in her fourth state high school cross country meet, Murray County Central senior Laura Christensen capped her fabulous career with a medalist performance Saturday, as she ran to a sixth-place individual performance at the Class A meet at St. Olaf College.

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Christensen, who placed 16th at the state meet as an eighth-grader in 2004, 10th as a sophomore in 2006, and 34th -- after an injury-riddled season -- last year, ran a typical progressive-type of race and earned her third all-state (top 25) honor.

Christensen moved up steadily over the 4,000-meter course, completing the distance in 15 minutes, 3.4 seconds.

"It felt good; I am absolutely happy," Christensen said 15 minutes after completing her final cross country race as a Rebel. "Getting a medal at the state meet has been my goal since eighth grade."

Christensen, who was battling for fourth with about 300 meters to go, was estimated at being in about 23rd-place shortly before the mile mark.

About 800 meters later -- without about a mile to go -- she had moved up to 13th-place, positioning herself for a chase to make the top eight (medals).

"She earned it," declared MCC head coach Dominick Damm. "That was the best race that I have seen her run. She stayed away from the sprinters at the beginning and just settled into her pace and kept passing people and then had her normal 'extended kick' over the last 800 meters."

Also earning all-state honors from the area were a trio of Adrian runners and Tracy-Milroy-Balaton senior Ryan Tholen.

Running in her fifth state meet, Dragon senior Leslie Stover earned her third all-state honor, as she led Adrian to a fourth straight state team championship.

Stover placed 12th among 155 finishing runners, clocking a time of 15:16.6.

Stover finished 54th in her first-year of cross country as an eighth-grader in 2004, before placing 22nd, 24th and 46th, respectively, the next three seasons.

Stover improved her time on the course 44 seconds from last year.

Adrian eighth-grader Megan Sauer made a 50-second improvement and moved up 38 places from last year's 56th-place overall finish, as she placed 18th this year with a time of 15:20.4.

Adrian junior Nate Reyne led the Dragon boys to a fifth-place team finish and was the first area runner to enter the chute in the longer, 5,000-meter boys' race.

Reyne, who placed 39th last year (17:15.1) improved 16 places and nearly 25 seconds this year, finishing 23rd with a time of 16:50.4.

Tholen, who placed an impressive fourth in 2007 (16:21.2), was not able to duplicate that performance.

The two-time Section 3A champion entered the chute one place behind Reyne, placing 24th (16:51.1).

"I tried my best," said Tholen, who was unable to work his way through the fast field of 157 runners like he frequently does. "I just didn't quite have it today.

"We had a fun season at T-M-B; our team came a long ways this year and winning the conference team championship was a real highlight."

The next highest individual finish among area runners -- who were not competing with a team -- was turned in by Pipestone Area junior Amanda Schoonhoven, who ran in her fourth consecutive state meet.

Schoonhoven finished 36th in the girls' race, clocked at 15:39.3, as she improved 24 places and almost 34 seconds from 2007.

Schoonhoven placed 27th (15:32) as an eighth-grader in 2005 and then raced to all-state honors as a sophomore in 2006, clocking a time of 15:38.3.

Halden Van Wyhe (Hills-Beaver Creek/Ellsworth) capped a fine senior season with a 52nd-place performance (17:19.9), improving nine seconds and seven places from his 2007 effort.

"He felt pretty good today," said H-BC/E head coach Tom Goehle about Van Wyhe, who had been sick earlier in the week. "This was a good way for him to finish what was a fine high school cross country career for him."

Three other are runners who competed individually Saturday were Mountain Lake/Butterfield-Odin girls Karina Fast and Sierra Harder, along the MCC senior Mark Bau.

Fast returned to the state meet and improved her time by 20 seconds, running the course in 16:04.4 and placing 66th -- four places better than a year ago.

"It was so nice coming back and even nicer having a teammate along," said Fast, referring to Harder, who placed 80th (16:21.1). "Our goal for next year is to bring the whole team here to run."

Bau, who came on strong at the season's end with a sixth-place finish in the Red Rock Conference meet and a ninth-place performance at the Section 3A meet, ran in his first state meet and finished ahead of 53 runners, clocking a 5,000-meter time of 17:54 and finishing 104th.

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