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PREP CROSS COUNTRY GIRLS: Experience fuels Dragon girls CC team

File Photo In this file photo, Adrian's Jordin Kopplow (left) and Luverne's Makayla Hohn run side-by-side during the Section 3A girls' cross country meet in Adrian.

ADRIAN -- Qualifying, as a team, for the 2012 Minnesota State High School League's (MSHSL) annual state cross country meet was the overwhelming goal of four veteran Adrian High School girls' distance runners who have a combined total of 17 years of experience competing in the elite meet on the campus of St. Olaf College in Northfield.

AHS seniors Jordin Kopplow and Megan Sauer have each run in five state cross country meets, while junior Nicole Slater has been there the past four years and sophomore Morgan Sauer has completed the 4,000-meter course at St. Olaf three times.

With their talent and experience, each of the four was a candidate to qualify individually for this year's meet, but that was not what the quartet wanted.

"Getting to the state meet as individuals was not the goal that any of them had in mind," summed up fourth-year AHS head coach John Olson about his top four Dragons. "The team concept is very important to each of them and that's what they wanted -- to run again at Northfield as a team."

Thanks to a typical strong by each of the four at the Section 3A Meet (at Adrian, Oct. 26) and a better than anticipated fifth-runner performance from seventh-grader Anna Serrao, Olson is again taking the entire seven-girl team back to St. Olaf.

The Dragons, as this year's Section 3 team runner-up (behind Canby/Minneota/Lincoln), will compete in Class A girls' state meet at 11 a.m. Saturday on the familiar Northfield course.

Joining the Sauer sisters, Kopplow, Slater and Serrao Saturday will be freshman Jada Elias and seventh-grader Hannah Bullerman, who like Serrao, will be competing on the course for the first time.

After having won seven consecutive section team championships, the Dragons are coming in as a second-place team for the first time, but Olson is pleased about the opportunity for the girls to experience the challenge of the state meet, together, again.

"Megan, Jordin, Nicole and Morgan have logged over 7,500 in-season miles together over their combined years as varsity runners," emphasized Olson. "They have put in nearly 8,000 miles combined in their off-season runs and three of them (Slater and the Sauer sisters) have never missed a day of running between the first day of practice and the last day of the season (the state meet) through their entire careers."

With that kind of dedication as a base, Olson is optimistic about another good team performance Saturday.

"Getting one more run together at St. Olaf was important to them," he said. "I am so happy that they have that chance. I know that each of them will run the best race they are capable of running and we will let the chips fall where they may."

The chips have fallen pretty well for the Dragons at all of their seven state-meet teams runs, which include five state championships (four in a row from 2005-2008 and a fifth two years ago in 2010). AHS was fourth in 2009 and seventh last year.

Individually, Kopplow -- who missed much of last season with an injured foot -- has been Adrian's lead runner at the state meet three times and has finished as high as eighth overall (as a freshman in 2009).

Megan Sauer has been remarkably consistent at St. Olaf, being the team's second runner the last four years and has placed among the top 18 overall finishers (out of usually 150 or more total runners) at three of her state-meet runs.

In the team scoring two years ago, Kopplow (nine), Megan Sauer (11), Morgan Sauer (24) and Slater (26) teamed with Austyn Thier (19) to give Adrian a winning score of 89.

Thier and Hunter Heronimus were Adrian's only two seniors on last year's team.

Schandelmeier, Hohn lead area individuals

While the Dragons will be competing Saturday for both team and individual honors, Luverne's two outstanding lead runners -- eighth-grader Madison Schandelmeier and junior Makayla Hohn -- will be strong contenders for individual All-State (top 25) honors.

Both Schandelmeier and Hohn (who finished second and fourth, respectively, in the section meet) have had banner seasons for the Cardinals and are returning to run at St. Olaf.

Schandelmeier placed 28th overall last year as a seventh grader, while Hohn was 31st after finishing 37th two years ago as a freshman.

"Having both Madi and Makayla finish in the top 25 would be great," declared LHS head coach Pete Janiszeski, who finished 18th overall in the 1996 Class A state meet, a year after helping Canby/Minneota/Lincoln HI win the '95 state title as the Lancers third runner that season. Janiszeski ran three years in a row at St. Olaf, improving from 48th to 29th to 18th, during his sophomore, junior and senior season at C/M/LH in the mid-1990s.

Mountain Lake Area, a new combination of Mountain Lake Public and Mountain Lake Christian, will have two representatives in Saturday's girls' meet, as senior Whitney Klassen returns to St. Olaf, hoping to improve upon her 52nd-place 2011 finish and eighth-grader Liana Blomgren makes her state-meet debut, after qualifying as the eighth finisher (not from one of the two qualifying teams) in last week's section meet.

Kopplow and Megan Sauer have each earned a trio of All-State individual honors, while Slater (18th as an eighth grader in 2009) has been an All-State runner once.