PREP CROSS COUNTRY: Area cross country runners strive for state meet todayADRIAN — Organized team practices for high school cross country runners began more than 11 weeks ago on Monday, Aug. 15.
By: Les Knutson, Worthington Daily Globe
ADRIAN — Organized team practices for high school cross country runners began more than 11 weeks ago on Monday, Aug. 15.
Since then, the long-distance runners have trained daily and competed in 10 meets, leading up to this afternoon’s season-capping sectional races, which advances the top 10 individuals and the two best teams to next week’s state meet.
The annual Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) sponsored state races are, again, at St. Olaf College in Northfield, a week from Saturday on Nov. 5.
But, today is when most of the 16 sections across the state are holding their qualifying meets.
Most area teams will be competing in the Section 3A meet at the Adrian Country Club — on the south edge of town — this afternoon, with the girls’ 4,000-meter race, starting at 4 p.m.
Worthington, however, has been bumped back up to Class AA and the Trojans will participate in the Section 2AA meet at Lake Marion County Park, six miles south of Hutchinson, along Highway 15.
The large-school meet also begins at 4 p.m. with the girls’ event.
Competing at Lake Marion will be Buffalo, Chanhassen, Chaska, Dassel-Cokato, Delano, Holy Family Catholic, Hutchinson, Mankato East, Mankato West, Marshall, Mound-Westonka, Orono, Shakopee, Waconia and Worthington.
With all 15 schools very likely fielding full seven-runner teams, there could be as many as 105 participants in each race at Lake Marion.
The 5,000-meter boys’ race is scheduled to begin at 4:30 in Class AA, while the Class A runners at Adrian will not start their race until 4:45 p.m.
A total of 19 teams will be competing at Adrian, including many school combinations. The Section 3A field includes: Adrian, BOLD, Jackson County Central, Luverne, Montevideo, Pipestone Area, Redwood Valley, Southwest Christian, Tracy-Milroy-Balaton, Windom, Yellow Medicine East, Canby/Minneota/Lincoln HI, Lac qui Parle Valley/Dawson-Boyd, Hills-Beaver Creek/ Ellsworth/Edgerton, MACCRAY/Renville County West, Mountain Lake/Butterfield-Odin, Murray County Central/Fulda, Springfield/Cedar Mountain and Mountain Lake Christian.
Mubarik Musa is ranked No. 8 in Class AA
Worthington senior Mubarik Musa, who has clearly established himself as one of Minnesota’s premier distance runners, is currently ranked No. 8 among all Class AA boys.
The Class A state cross country champion as a sophomore in 2009, Musa will be aiming for a fourth straight state-meet qualification. As a freshman in 2008, he ran for Park Center in the Class AA meet, before running for the Trojans the past two campaigns. Musa finished third in last year’s Class A state meet and has claimed an individual state championship in track and field, having won the 1,600-meter run as a sophomore in June of 2010.
“Mubarik has had lots of experience competing in high-level meets,” declared Worthington head coach Ken Henkels. “He is ready to run a good race today, as he is well-prepared — both physically and mentally. He knows what it takes to compete against the state’s best.”
Musa will be the second-highest ranked runner in today’s race, as Chaska’s Joey Duerr is rated above him, ranked No. 4 in the latest poll.
Joining Musa today in Worthington’s boys’ lineup will be juniors Nathan Landwehr, Ian Stewart and Gordy Moore, along with freshmen Matthew Jirele and Oliver Wolyniec. Eighth-grader Amanuel Fissiha, who has been the second runner for the Trojans in most meets, completes the seven-member WHS varsity roster.
Juniors Caleb Wede and Thomas Burns are listed as the alternates for the Trojans, who have not competed in Class AA cross country since 2006.
Competing for the Worthington girls will be eighth-grader Meredith Moore, freshman Alicia Darling, junior Stephanie Jaycox, sophomores Sade Potter and Ariana Lopez, along with seniors Jennifer Majerus and Kinzie Myrom. Seniors Mariah Haffield and Whitney Prins are the two alternates.
Moore and Darling have been Worthington’s lead runners through most of the season, usually finishing side-by-side in most races.
“We’re looking forward to the challenge of competing in Class AA again,” summed up Henkels about today’s experience. “The competition will be just outstanding, but we’re hoping to run some season-best times and do as well as we can, both individually and team-wise.”
Stoks, Hohn ranked individually in Class A; Adrian girls are No. 5, Redwood boys No. 6
At Adrian, the competition will also be very keen, as several top-notch individual runners will be contending for top honors, including Nick Stoks, a junior from C/M/LH, who is ranked No. 5 in the state among all Class A boys, and Luverne sophomore Makayla Hohn, who is ranked No. 11 on the Class A girls’ list.
Stoks finished second in last year’s Section 3A race — behind Musa — and has been winning most of his races this season by large margins.
Hohn, who placed a close third the 2010 Section 3A meet, has won her share of races this season, including both the Jackson and Luverne meets. She recently finished a close second in the Southwest Conference race and has been a steady performer all season for a young Cardinals’ team which may challenge for the team title today.
Luverne is coming off a conference team championship with its girls’ team and the Cardinals finished a close third in the Southwest Conference boys’ meet — behind Class AA power Marshall and Redwood Valley, the state’s No. 6-ranked Class A team.
Both LHS teams appear to be strong contenders for state-meet trips.
“We are excited about the opportunity to race for a trip to the state meet on both sides,” exclaimed Luverne head coach Pete Janiszeski. “We feel we have an excellent chance to be in the top two with our girls and with our boys. But we are not taking anything for granted. We know that other teams and individuals will be striving to make it to state, as well.
“We just want to go out and put our best race of the season out on the course Thursday and give ourselves a chance to move on to the state meet. Our section is always very competitive and we know that there are a number of teams who can come out on top on any given day.”
Last year, the Cardinals were fourth in the Section 3A boys’ race with 141 points — behind Redwood Valley (100), C/M/LH (117) and Worthington (119).
Luverne was eighth in the girls’ team standings last year with 196 points. But the Cardinals have really stepped it up this year.
“I am looking for a close meet between us and Luverne,” said John Olson, head coach of the Adrian Dragons, who have won six consecutive section girls’ team championships, including a dominating 2010 performance when AHS literally ran away with the title, scoring a mere 49 points — 46 better than C/M/LH’s second-place total of 95.
“The Cardinals are young and good, very solid through their whole lineup,” praised Olson about the Luverne girls. “We are really strong through our top four, but without Jordin Kopplow running, we really need to find a fifth runner, who can get closer to Luverne’s pack.”
Kopplow, who has been Adrian’s lead runner for several seasons, has been sidelined with a foot stress fracture. Her status for today is unlikely, but she may be able to run in the state meet if the Dragons can qualify.
Paced by senior Austyn Thier, junior Megan Sauer, sophomore Nicole Slater and freshman Morgan Sauer, the Dragons could put four runners in the top 10 today. But the gap between No. 4 and No. 5 has been wide without Kopplow in the lineup.
With Kopplow, a junior, on the course, the Dragons had been putting five runners among the top finishers in their earlier season meets.
Adrian is currently ranked No. 5 in the Class A girls’ team standings and the Dragons have won five state championships in the past six years, including the 2010 title. AHS finished fourth at the state meet two years ago, after claiming four straight titles from 2005-2008.
While Adrian and Luverne are the favorites in the girls’ team chase, squads from C/M/LH, LQPV/D-B, MCC/F and ML/B-O certainly should not be overlooked.
The Lancers of C/M/LH (Canby) have been perennially well-known for peaking at the section meet, as have the Wolverines of ML/B-O, who finished an impressive third at the state meet in 2009.
MCC/F, led by senior standout Tiffany Gehl, has had a fine season and the Rebels certainly look to make a big improvement from last year’s 12th-place finish (317 points).
“We’ve had a good year and our girls have come along very nicely as a team,” said Rebels’ head coach Dominick Damm. “If we get great runs from all five scoring runners, we have a chance to be near the top of the standings.”
Individually, Hohn and LHS seventh-grader Madison Schandelmeier — who won the Rebel Invitational at Slayton Sept. 27 — are expected to be among the leaders, as well as Thier, Slater and the Sauer sisters from Adrian.
C/M/LH sophomore Leah Jessen, the defending champion, and JCC eighth-grader Jadin Bezdicek, the 2011 Southwest Conference champion, are two other likely contenders for the individual championship.
Gehl, ML/B-O freshman Lydia Hildebrandt, MLC junior Whitney Klassen, and a pair of runners from Redwood Valley — Mary Fixsen and Kayla Huhnerkoch — are among several other highly-talented cross country competitors who will likely run near the front of the pack today.
“There are a lot of great individual girls in our section,” summed up Janiszeski. “The kids who race up to their potential and give it everything they have — leaving nothing to chance — will be the ones who get to move on.”
Both Cardinal boys’ teams run tight packs
While Stoks is a clear favorite to win the boys’ individual title, the race for second may be closely-contested and the battle for the team championship should be interesting.
Adrian senior Jase Pater has had a great season, including a repeat Red Rock Conference championship and will likely be a contender for a repeat state-meet qualification. Pater finished ninth in the section meet in 2010.
ML/B-O twins, Kyle and Adam Blomgren, are coming along well at season’s end and H-BC/E/E senior Ryan Weitgenant ran a tremendous race at last year’s section meet, qualifying for state with an eighth-place individual finish.
Seven of last year’s top-10 boys’ finishers graduated, leaving the field pretty open this year.
Many of those top places may be claimed by Cardinals — either Redwood Valley or Luverne, who both run remarkably tight packs.
RV outran LHS in the conference meet (Oct. 19 at the Loon Lake Golf Course) by eight points, getting its “pack” just a few places ahead of Luverne’s.
Redwood won the sectional team title last year without putting any finishers among the top 12. They did, however, have four runners place between 13th and 18th, displaying exceptional balance.
Luverne’s balance this season has been absolutely amazing as the quintet of Cody Hess, Ryan Oye, Nathan Stensland-Bos, Josh Friedrichsen and Austin Stroeh have frequently finished within just a few seconds of each other.
“We have been pretty interchangeable in our top five in the past few weeks,” noted Janiszeski. “We would like to think that we have two or three boys who could be among the top-10 individuals. You never know, anything can happen at the section meet.”
In addition to both Cardinals having strong boys’ teams this year, Janiszeski also expects C/M/LH, Montevideo and an oncoming ML/B-O squad to contend for a state-meet team berth.
Many of the northern teams may have individuals who will be in the chase for a top-10 finish and there could be a team which pulls off a surprise on the course today.
“You just never know,” concluded Olson. “There are several good teams and lots of outstanding individuals in our section. On any given day, anything can happen.”