PREP GIRLS' CROSS COUNTRY: Dragons finish 7th at state meetNORTHFIELD — Paced by a pair of strong lead-run performances from five-time veterans Austyn Thier and Megan Sauer, the Adrian Dragons finished seventh Saturday afternoon in the team standings of the girls’ Class A state high school cross country meet at St. Olaf College.
By: Les Knutson, Worthington Daily Globe
NORTHFIELD — Paced by a pair of strong lead-run performances from five-time veterans Austyn Thier and Megan Sauer, the Adrian Dragons finished seventh Saturday afternoon in the team standings of the girls’ Class A state high school cross country meet at St. Olaf College.
Thier, a senior, utilized both her state-meet experience and her ability to finish a race strong to run well from beginning to end, leading the Dragons — and all 17 competing runners from Section 3A — with a 19th-place individual performance, clocking a time of 15 minutes, 26.5 seconds on the challenging 4,000-meter course.
“I really wanted to make the top 25 and earn All-State honors,” exclaimed Thier about her finishing effort, which included passing a group of four runners just 20 meters from the chute. “I didn’t know how many (runners) I had to catch, but I was sure I needed to pass some of them.”
While Thier’s strong finishing kick moved her up at least a dozen places in the final 400 meters, junior teammate Megan Sauer was also passing runners and crossed the finish line just seven seconds later, placing an impressive 29th with a time of 15:33.8.
Sauer, who has run very well in all five of her state-meet appearances, certainly did so again Saturday.
“Megan is not a bit overwhelmed by the state meet,” praised Adrian head coach John Olson. “She has probably run her best race of the season each time up here. Her teammates know that, too, and appreciate how well she always has run in this race.”
Sauer, who finished 11th at this year’s section meet, was the fourth runner from Section 3A to complete the course at St. Olaf, earning her fourth consecutive top-30 finish at the state meet.
There were a total of 156 runners who completed Saturday’s race with 111 of them representing the 16 squads who were contending for team honors.
St. Cloud Cathedral, the top-ranked team entering the meet, put four runners among the first 22 in the team scoring and won the team title by 24 points with a low score of 98.
The Crusaders (8-9-13-22-43) finished second last year, behind Adrian’s winning total of 89.
Annandale (4-18-21-24-51) was second this year with 118 points, followed by Esko (132), Blake (138), Waseca (154) and United South Central (203) in the top six.
Adrian, which won nine meet titles this season, outran nine teams Saturday, finishing in seventh place with 211 points on team places 12-17-37-39-106.
“We were hoping for an upper half finish,” summed up Olson. “We had super lead runs from both Austyn and Megan, along with great efforts from everyone else. Getting seventh in the state meet is a pretty good accomplishment.”
Three teams — Holdingford (218), La Crescent (222) and Perham (227) — were within close range of the Dragons, completing the top 10.
Trinity River Ridge (247), Park Rapids (247), Albany (268), Luverne (297), Rochester Lourdes (325) and International Falls (358) completed the 16-team field.
Bezdicek, Schandelmeier, Hohn each nearly make All-State, finish 27, 28, 31, respectively
While Thier was the only area runner to finish among the top 25 and make All-State, three runners came very close.
Jackson County Central eighth-grader Jadin Bezdicek, who won the Southwest Conference individual championship in mid-October and placed fourth in the Section 3A meet, was the section’s second finisher Saturday.
Bezdicek was running as high as 22nd with about 400 meters remaining, according to her coach Brad Strom.
She ended up an impressive 27th (15:32.8) in her first experience at the elite event.
“Jadin ran a good race and competed very well,” praised Strom. “This was a great experience for her, as she has the potential to get back here many times.”
Leading Luverne Saturday were the duo of seventh-grader Madison Schandelmeier (28th, 15:33.3) and sophomore Makayla Hohn (31st, 15:35.6), both of whom placed among the top 20 percent of the entire field.
“It was a little bit tiring,” summed up Schandelmeier about her first state-meet race. “But it was fun to run against so many good people. It’s a tough course, but it’s one of my favorites. This was a really good experience.”
LHS head coach Pete Janiszeski was proud of the high finishes of his top two girls.
“Both Madison and Makayla ran good races with great efforts,” he said. “Makayla was a little disappointed because she ran here last year and expected more this time. But she improved six places and 16 seconds, finishing ahead of 125 runners at the state meet, so that’s an accomplishment.”
Also running individually Saturday from Section 3A were Redwood Valley’s Kayla Huhnerkoch (34th, 15:38.6), Lac qui Parle Valley/Dawson-Boyd’s Alaysia Freetly (41st, 15:45.7) and Canby/Minneota/Lincoln HI’s Leah Jessen (48th, 15:50.3), who finished ninth, eighth and sixth, respectively, at the section meet.
Mountain Lake Christian sophomore Whitney Klassen, who finished an impressive third at the Section 3A meet, finished 52nd Saturday, clocking a time of 15:54.0.
Entering the chute two places behind Klassen was Murray County Central/Fulda senior Tiffany Gehl, who finished seventh at the section meet.
Gehl ran the St. Olaf course in 15:59.7 and passed a pair of runners with her final kick to earn 54th-place.
“This was an awesome experience,” declared Gehl shortly after finishing. “The course was pretty basic, but the long hill — late in the race — back in the woods was kind of tough.
“I was passed by a lot of runners at the beginning. But later, I passed quite a few girls and then held my place most of the way. At the end, I was trying to kick, but there was some loose gravel at the bottom of that last hill, which I slipped on a little.”
Gehl, however, looked strong after scaling the final hill and blazed to the chute with an impressive kick, giving her a finish among the upper 35 percent of all the runners.
Kopplow starts first race in five weeks, runs well for 3,200 meters
With Thier and Megan Sauer finishing in team places 12 and 17, respectively, Adrian had a pair of low scores.
The Dragons were optimistic about getting a third low number when Jordin Kopplow — the team’s top finisher at three of the last four state meets — was cleared for competition after missing five weeks of the season with a left foot stress fracture.
“Jordin had the OK from her doctor and she made the decision to run,” explained Olson. “Her teammates were happy about that and we were optimistic, thinking that she could go the distance and help our score.”
But, after starting out a bit faster than what the pre-race plan called for, Kopplow was unable to complete the race, dropping out at about the 3,200-meter mark.
“It was nice to be out there with my team again,” exclaimed Kopplow, who won five races in September before her injury. “I maybe went out a bit too fast, but it felt good to be racing again. I tired out faster than usual and the race was about 800 meters too long. I just couldn’t continue.”
“Without being able to run for five weeks, Jordin’s cardio-vascular conditioning just wasn’t there,” explained Olson. “She did a lot of biking and swimming, but it’s not the same. The good thing is that she didn’t hurt her foot any, it was just a matter of not being able to hold that kind of pace for that long.”
“It took a lot of courage for her to step to the starting line and give it a try,” praised sophomore teammate Nicole Slater about Kopplow’s effort.
“I was happy that Jordin was able to try it,” echoed Thier. “She gave it her best effort. We were all proud of her.”
A junior, Kopplow may play basketball this winter and will likely be one of the area’s — and state’s — best runners again when next fall rolls around.
“Jordin was realistic about it” concluded Olson. “She wanted to give it a try and she deserved a chance to give it a shot and try to help her team.”
While Kopplow was unable to finish, both Slater (65th, overall, 37th team scoring, 16:11.1) and freshman Morgan Sauer (67, 39, 16:12.7) finished close to each other as Adrian’s third and fourth runners.
Senior Hunter Hieronimus, who ran a stellar race in the Section 3A meet which helped the Dragons clinch their seventh consecutive section team title, was Adrian’s fifth runner again Saturday, clocking a time of 18:27.7 and finishing 106th in the team scoring.
Eighth-grader Megan Tweet entered the chute just over eight seconds after Hieronimus, placing 108th in the team scoring with a time of 18:36.0
Adrian’s seventh-place team finish gives the Dragons a remarkable seven top-seven state-meet team finishes in a row.
AHS won four straight championships from 2005-2008. The Dragons finished fourth in 2009 and then won a fifth state title last year.
Thier and Hieronimus are the team’s only two seniors, so the Dragons could certainly be contenders for an eighth straight state meet trip in 2012.
“We have a few good young runners coming up,” declared Kopplow. “I am looking forward to next year.”
Early-race rollover hampers Cardinals
Running as a team for the first time since 2007, five of Luverne’s young runners had never experienced the state cross country meet before.
While both Schandelmeier (16th team scoring) and Hohn (19) broke through the huge pack of runners early and positioned themselves among the leaders, things didn’t go so well for three other LHS girls.
Just about 200 meters into the race, while making the first turn, several runners collided and a pile-up occurred.
Included in the rollover were Cardinal runners Anna Tofteland, Naomi Dooyema and Madi Oye, while another — seventh-grader Mariah Aukes — stumbled and was bumped off-stride.
“I ended up at the bottom of the pile,” exclaimed Oye, who has often been the team’s fifth runner. “That made me mad and I got up and sprinted too fast trying to catch up — which got me tired sooner in the race than usual.”
Tofteland, who ran in the state meet as an individual two years ago as an eighth-grader in 2009 and finished 54th (16:23.9), paced herself the best coming out of the pile-up and finished as Luverne’s third runner Saturday.
Tofteland (124th overall, 80th team scoring, 17:14.9), Aukes (134, 89, 17:30.9) and Dooyema (138, 93, 17:37.2) completed the scoring for the Cardinals, who qualified for the state meet with an exceptional Section 3A meet performance — finishing a mere three points behind Adrian.
Dooyema, who was Luverne’s seventh runner in the section meet, utilized a tremendous finishing kick Saturday to pass several runners prior to the chute.
“I just wanted to be done,” explained the LHS freshman about her strong finish. “After that pile up at the beginning, it seemed like a long race.”
Seventh-grader Zayna Hustoft (143, 98, 17:52.2) and Oye, an eighth-grader, (145, 100, 17:59.0) completed the seven-member Luverne squad.
“It was a learning experience for us,” summed up Janiszeski. “The whole atmosphere and intensity of the race is something you need to experience.
“Who knows how many team places we may have moved up — if four of our girls had not had to overcome what happened to them at the beginning.
“But our young girls have come a long ways and had a great season. We certainly are looking forward to next year.”