Adrian girls’ cross country team seeking fourth consecutive Class A titleWORTHINGTON — Once again Southwestern Minnesota will be well-represented at the state high school cross country meet, which takes place Saturday at St. Olaf College in Northfield.
By: Les Knutson, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — Once again Southwestern Minnesota will be well-represented at the state high school cross country meet, which takes place Saturday at St. Olaf College in Northfield.
For the fourth consecutive time, Adrian will be bringing both its teams, as the Dragon girls and boys each won their fourth straight Section 3A championship last week.
Jackson County Central’s boys won the Section 2A team title, so the Huskies will also be competing with seven runners Saturday.
Additionally, seven more area athletes — four girls and three boys — will be running individually, which gives the area a total of 28 participants in this year’s Class A meet.
The 4,000-meter girls’ race begins at 10 a.m. The 5,000-meter boys’ event will follow with an 11 a.m. start.
The course has a trio of challenging hills and features a relatively flat stretch in the middle of the race. The boys’ race takes two trips up the course’s first hill, repeating a loop to get the extra 1,000 meters run.
“Our kids are familiar with the course and the experience of running there is a big help,” said Adrian head coach Doug Petersen, who has guided six Dragon teams to successful performances over the last three years. “Both team races will be close this year. We have as good a shot as anyone — we can’t control what the other teams do, but our kids will keep running the way they have been all season.”
The Adrian girls have won eight meet titles this fall and are currently ranked first in the final Class A coaches association poll.
The Dragon boys have won six meets this season and are ranked sixth. JCC — coming off its section championship — has moved up to eighth in the Class A boys’ ratings.
Blake, Mora, Mounds Park Academy, Pequot Lakes and Perham are the five teams ranked ahead of the Adrian boys.
The Dragons, however, finished ahead of Mora, MPA and Pequot Lakes at Milaca’s big meet (Sept. 20) and finished ahead of Blake at the Griak Invitational at the University of Minnesota (Sept. 27).
Perham, last year’s state champion, finished well ahead of Adrian at the Griak meet.
Adrian’s girls, meanwhile, have maintained their top ranking, as they have finished ahead of every Class A team they have competed against this fall.
While each of the Dragon squads will be in “the hunt” for a state championship, the JCC boys are seeking an upper-half finish — and are looking forward to competing against Adrian.
“We want to run well as a team, get some experience at that level (state meet) and build a hunger to get back again next year,” says JCC co-head coach Brad Strom. “We may not be a top-three team yet, but we could become one in 2009.”
Tholen, Christensen, Reyne are state-ranked
Individually, the area has three state-ranked runners — each of them with state-meet experience.
Tracy-Milroy-Balaton senior Ryan Tholen is making his fourth trip to St. Olaf. The two-time Section 3A champion is ranked second in the state, behind Clayton Foster of Pequot Lakes.
Foster finished fifth in the 2007 state meet, while Tholen — who was inexperienced as a freshman and ran with an injury as a sophomore — had a great state meet race last year, placing fourth.
“He is relaxed and ready,” T-M-B head coach Marie Hanson said. “I am sure that I am more nervous than he is.”
Tholen has won nine races this season, including taking first place at the prestigious Milaca-Mega Meet. He finished second twice — once to Adam Zutz of Class AA St. Francis (at the Griak meet) and once to Adrian’s Nate Reyne (at the Adrian Invitational, Oct. 7).
Tholen, however, finished ahead of Reyne at the section meet (Oct. 24).
Reyne, who is ranked seventh, had a great finish in that section race and will likely improve upon his 20th-place (team scoring) 2007 state meet performance.
Murray County Central senior Laura Christensen — the state’s sixth-ranked Class A girls’ runner — will be competing in her fourth state meet, after winning this year’s section meet.
“All season long, she has been gearing up to get back to the state meet,” said her coach Dominick Damm. “Twice she has been close to getting a medal up there, and this year she has been running her best. So, we are hoping for a top-eight individual finish.”
Reyne, a junior, will lead a solid Adrian team that also had senior Chris Reisdorfer (fourth), junior Jordan Pater (sixth) and senior Kyle Henning (seventh) come through with big races in the section meet.
The other five area qualifying individuals — in addition to Tholen and Christensen — are Mountain Lake/Butterfield-Odin runners Sierra Harder (a junior) and Karina Fast (a sophomore), Pipestone Area junior Amanda Schoonhoven, Hills-Beaver Creek/Ellsworth senior Halden Van Wyhe, and MCC senior Mark Bau.
The trip will be a repeat venture for Fast, Schoonhoven and Van Wyhe.
“Halden ran a very good race last year, finishing 59th overall,” Patriot head coach Tom Goehle said. “He was not 100 percent healthy at the section meet, so just getting back to the state again this year is a good accomplishment.”
For Bau, running in his first state meet is exciting.
“He has the right attitude and is asking lots of questions,” says Damm, who ran in two state meets himself for Heron Lake-Okabena-Lakefield in the early 1990s. “Mark has been hitting his times in practice and is having fun continuing his season.”
Van Wyhe and Bau finished eighth and ninth, respectively, in the Section 3A meet.
Schoonhoven, this year’s Southwest Conference champion, placed seventh in the Section 3A girls’ race, and will be making her third trip to the state meet.
Harder (third) and Fast (sixth) qualified out of Section 2A.
Stover is running in her fifth state meet
Adrian senior Leslie Stover will be running in her fifth consecutive state meet.
After qualifying individually and placing 54th overall as an eighth-grader in 2004, Stover has been a big part of all three Adrian state titles. She placed 13th, 17th and 23rd in the team scoring in each of the last three seasons.
Running with Stover will be senior Erica Thier, who was 20th in 2005 (team scoring) and ninth in 2006, eighth-grader Megan Sauer (30th in 2007), seventh-grader Nicole Slater, eighth-grader Jordin Kopplow (eighth, 2007), freshman Hunter Hieronimus and freshman Austyn Thier (16th, 2006 and 21st, 2007).
Sophomores Hailee Heitkamp and Natasha Slater are the Dragon alternates.
Staples-Motley is ranked second among Class A girls, while Holy Family Catholic and Perham are third and fourth, respectively.
Petersen also expects a real challenge from Section 3A runner-up Canby. The Lancers, who came within 11 points of Adrian at that meet, have moved up to seventh in the last poll.
“They are legitimate contenders for the podium (top three),” Petersen said about Canby. “The girls’ race may come down to who gets their fifth runner in the chute first.”
Kocak, Strom, Cook lead JCC
While Reyne, Reisdorfer, Pater and Henning each had top-seven finishes for Adrian in Section 3, the JCC trio of Matt Kocak (third), Marc Strom (sixth) and Justin Cook (seventh) were doing the same thing in Section 2.
Senior Brett Springman has been Adrian’s fifth runner all season and his performance will be a key for Adrian’s quest for the title.
“We are confident that Brett will run a good race, and we know that our sixth runner, Zach Runia, is really coming on too,” declared Petersen. “We believe that we have a chance to have six guys run under 17:50, which could position us well.”
Runia, a junior, and freshman Jase Pater complete the Dragon top seven, while junior Justin Feit and sophomore Tony Reisdorfer are the alternates.
The Adrian boys were eighth in the team standings in 2005, before placing third in ’06 and capturing second last year.
Chris Reisdorfer (sixth), Jordan Pater (47th), Springman (49th) and Henning (55th), along with Reyne, all ran on that runner-up team.
“This is the fourth state meet for Jordan, the third for Kyle, Chris and Nate, and the second for Brett,” noted Petersen. “We have lots of experience at this meet.”
Joining Kocak, Strom and Cook for the Huskies are Sam Hendrickson, Jon Troe, Ben Kocak and Aaron Fields.
Matt Kocak (77th overall) and Strom (89th) both ran in last year’s state meet.
Fields is JCC’s only senior. Matt Kocak, Hendrickson and Troe are juniors. Strom and Cook are sophomores, while Ben Kocak is a freshman.
JCC’s boys last ran in the state meet in 2001, finishing 14th. The Huskies were fourth in 1997, and the year before — the Jackson Bluejays were the 1996 Class A boys’ runner-ups.
Section 3A runner-up Redwood Valley is ranked 10th in the boys’ field, while Section 2A second-place finisher Fairmont is ranked 12th in the last poll.
Section 2A champion Fairmont is the ninth-ranked girls’ team.
There will be 16 complete teams (112 runners) competing in each race, along with 30-40 qualifying individuals, making the total number approach 150 for each event.