PREP CROSS COUNTRY PREVIEW: Adrian girls, both LHS teams ready for SaturdayNORTHFIELD — A season-long goal for 25 area high school cross country runners will be realized Saturday afternoon on the campus of St. Olaf College in Northfield as they will be part of the 2011 Class A state cross country meet.
By: Les Knutson, Worthington Daily Globe
NORTHFIELD — A season-long goal for 25 area high school cross country runners will be realized Saturday afternoon on the campus of St. Olaf College in Northfield as they will be part of the 2011 Class A state cross country meet.
For nine of those 25, it will be a repeat experience, especially for six girls on Adrian’s defending state championship team — and for Dragon senior Jordan Pater, who will be running in his fourth consecutive state meet.
A trio of Adrian girls — senior Austyn Thier and juniors Megan Sauer and Jordin Kopplow — have ran the St. Olaf state-meet course four times, while sophomore Nicole Slater has run with the Dragons three times and both freshman Morgan Sauer and senior Hunter Hieronimus have two years of experience at Northfield.
For Luverne sophomores Makayla Hohn and Anna Tofteland, Saturday’s race will be their second time competing in the state meet, as both have qualified individually in previous years.
But, for 16 of the area runners — including all seven of Luverne’s closely-knit Section 3A boys’ runner-up team — Saturday will be their first state cross-country meet experience.
The Cardinals, who qualified both their girls’ and boys’ teams to compete at St. Olaf, will have a total of 14 athletes running Saturday, as one of few programs in the state to advance both squads to the elite event.
“We have the opportunity to have both our teams compete at the state, which is the pinnacle meet for Minnesota high school cross country,” exclaimed LHS head coach Pete Janiszeski, who was selected last week as the Section 3A Coach of the Year for both girls and boys. “We have a goal of getting both teams in the top half.”
After the Class AA girls open Saturday’s action at 10 a.m., the Class AA boys’ race — which will include Worthington senior Mubarik Musa — will start at 11 a.m.
Following a break, the Class A girls’ meet begins at 1 p.m.
With 16 full seven-member teams and another 25-40 qualifiying individuals, there will be approximately 140-150 runners on the 4,000-meter course.
Adrian is the defending state champion and the Dragons are back after winning their seventh consecutive Section 3A title Oct. 27.
Ranked No. 5 in this year’s final Class A poll, Adrian ran the entire month of October without its top runner through September, that being junior Jordin Kopplow — who has three times finished among the top-nine at the state meet.
Kopplow missed six meets, including the section, with a stress fracture in her left foot.
She has run a couple of times in practice this week and she may compete Saturday.
“It will be up to Jordin,” said third-year AHS head coach John Olson on Wednesday. “She hasn’t gone very far or very fast, but she was able to run comfortably and we’ll just have to see how she feels Friday evening.”
Kopplow has had phenomenal success at St. Olaf — earning a trio of All-State honors — finishing eighth (15:28) as a seventh-grader in 2007, sixth (15:30) as a freshman in 2009 and ninth (15:24) last year as a sophomore, leading Adrian to its fifth state team title in a six-year span.
After winning four consecutive state team championships from 2005-2008, the Dragons finished fourth in 2009 and then rebounded with an impressive team title again last November.
“We are staying sort of low key,” exclaimed Olson on Thursday. “We are not putting any pressure on the girls to win a sixth title. While that is what we are trying to do, we just want them to put forth their best efforts and let the chips fall where they fall.
“Truthfully, that is what we did last year, too. We expect it to be an incredibly fast race this year, based upon times we have been seeing throughout the year from around the state. We will try to run smart and see what the results are at the end of the day.”
While, Kopplow’s status is questionable, the Dragons certainly have several other runners who have performed remarkably well at the state race — especially Megan Sauer who entered the chute just four seconds behind Kopplow at St. Olaf last year, earning her third straight All-State award by placing 11th with a time of 15:28.
Sauer was 10th as a freshman in 2009 and 11th as an eighth-grader in 2008, clocked at 15:20 — the best time ever run by any of the current Adrian runners on the St. Olaf course.
Both Thier — this year’s sectional individual champion — and Slater have had previous high-placings at Northfield, too.
Thier was 16th (15:38) as a seventh-grader in 2006, 21st as an eighth-grader in 2007 and — after missing her sophomore season with an ACL injury — placed 19th last year with a time of 15:45.
“The way that Austyn has been running, a top-10 finish from her is a realistic expectation,” Olson said. “Both Megan and Nicole have had great races on the state-meet course before and could be right up there, too.”
Slater has had a pair of top-20 state-meet finishes, placing 16th (15:34) as a seventh-grader in 2008 and 12th (15:49) the next year as an eighth-grader.
Morgan Sauer was Adrian’s fourth runner at last-year’s state meet, finishing 24th (15:54) as an eighth-grader, playing a major role in Adrian’s first-place team finish.
Hieronimus, who has run the state-meet course twice and was an alternate two years ago, ran a strong race in the section meet for the Dragons, helping AHS claim the title.
Sophomore Haley Howe will also run for the Dragons Saturday and alternate Megan Tweet, an eighth-grader, will be in the line-up if Kopplow is unable to compete.
After the girls’ race is finished, Adrian fans will be cheering for Pater, who will toe the starting line at 2 p.m. for the Class A boys’ 5,000-meter race.
The hard-working senior, who ran over 500 miles last summer, qualified individually after a fourth-place finish at the sectional meet.
Pater twice ran with Adrian’s team (2008, 2009) before advancing as an individual last season.
“Jase will run a smart race,” summed up Olson about his expectations for Pater, in his final high school cross country race. “He has experience, and he is in shape to do well.”
Luverne boys have exceptional balance
Luverne is taking both teams to the state meet for the first time since 2004.
The Cardinal girls last ran as a team in 2007 and finished as high as fifth in the 2005 state meet — the same year Adrian won its first title.
Luverne’s boys were eighth in 2004, led by a 15th-place (All-State) finish from Tom Ward.
In 2005, Thomas Christensen qualified individually and ran Luverne’s fastest time on the St. Olaf state-meet course, clocked at 16:51, while also earning All-State (top 25) honors by placing 20th.
Luverne’s Lexi Jo Heitkamp earned four straight All-State finishes for the Cardinal girls from 2003-2006, finishing 11th, 11th, sixth and fifth, respectively, during those years with a best time of 14:55.
Hohn qualified individually last season as a freshman and has been Luverne’s lead runner in nearly every meet this season. She finished a strong second in this year’s section meet.
Tofteland, who earned a state-meet individual trip two years ago as an eighth-grader, has battled back well from an early-season hip flexor injury and “has been running great workouts,” according to Janiszeski.
“We are hoping that Anna can put together a great race Saturday,” the coach said.
Running between Hohn and Tofteland for the LHS girls has been Madison Schandelmeier, a seventh-grader, who has won a varsity race and finished an impressive fifth in this year’s section meet.
“Both Makayla and Madison have a good chance to achieve All-State honors, depending upon how well they race and how fast the field is,” summed up Janiszeski, who earned such distinction while running for a state championship Canby/Minneota/Lincoln HI team in 1995. “We are hoping that a bunch of our boys can compete for All-State honors, too.”
Sophomore Cody Hess, seniors Nathan Stensland-Bos, Ryan Oye and Austin Stroeh, along with junior Josh Friedrichsen, make up a very “tight pack” for the Cardinals, who missed a Section 3A championship by a mere three points, 33-36, to Redwood Valley.
Luverne won three straight boys’ meets this season and the girls won the Southwest Conference team championship.
Hess, Stensland-Bos, Oye and Stroeh are also each individual qualifiers after finishing in places 6-9 at the section meet, while Friedrichsen just missed (11th).
“This is the most individual qualifiers — six (four boys, two girls) — that we have ever taken to the state meet,” noted Janiszeski. “The previous most was four in 2004.
“Our girls’ team is extremely young with our top 9 (seven runners, two alternates), consisting of five seventh-graders, one eighth-grader, one freshman and two sophomores.”
Joining Hohn, Schandelmeier and Tofteland on Saturday will be seventh-grader Mariah Aukes, eighth-grader Madi Oye, seventh-grader Zayna Hustoft and freshman Naomi Dooyema.
Freshman Drew Weis and junior Scott Nelson complete the top seven for the Luverne boys.
First time for Klassen, Bezdicek, Gehl
Mountain Lake Christian sophomore Whitney Klassen, Jackson County Central eighth-grader Jadin Bezdicek and Murray County Central/Fulda senior Tiffany Gehl each qualified individually to run Saturday by placing third, fourth and seventh, respectively in the Section 3A meet.
It will be the first cross country state-meet experience for the trio.
Gehl, however, ran in the state track meet as an eighth-grader in 2008, competing in the 1,600-meter run.
Klassen, who also played volleyball all fall for the Bears, is MLC’s first athlete to ever qualify for a MSHSL-sponsored state event.
Bezdicek, who ran 271 miles this summer and has put in 240 more since practice started, is JCC’s first girl state-meet qualifier since 2003.
But the Huskies have had several strong individual performances at St. Olaf, highlighted by a 10th-place finish by Jessica Schultz in 2002.
Bezdicek won two races on her home course this season, including claiming the Southwest Conference individual title Oct. 18.
St. Cloud Cathedral is the top-ranked Class A team in both girls and boys, while The Blake School is rated No. 2 in the girls’ field and defending state champion Perham is the No. 2-ranked boys’ team.
Redwood Valley is ranked No. 6 in the boys’ field.