PREP CROSS COUNTRY BOYS: Luverne boys, WHS's Fissiha running at state Saturday
LUVERNE -- A consistent season for the hard-working Luverne High School boys' cross country team reaches its peak Saturday when the Cardinals will again be competing in the prestigious Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) sponsored Class A state meet, which begins at 10 a.m. on the campus of St. Olaf College in Northfield.
After finishing a strong second in last week's (Oct. 26) Section 3 Meet, the Cardinals will send their entire seven-man team to St. Olaf, along with section champion Redwood Valley.
"We are excited to have the opportunity to compete again at the state meet," exclaimed LHS head coach Pete Janiszeski about the Cardinals' return trip. "Six of the guys were with us last year when we there, so hopefully that experience will play in our favor."
Paced by the lead trio of senior Josh Friedrichsen, junior Cody Hess and sophomore Drew Weis, Luverne has enjoyed a fine 2012 campaign, finishing among the top four teams in six meets this fall.
Janiszeski, who was a state-meet competitor (All-State his senior year) at Canby/Minneota/Lincoln HI in the middle 1990s, knows how to bring a squad along and have them "peak" at the right time, which is just what the Cardinals did at the section meet.
"We are a team which really just worked hard and improved each week," Janiszeski said. "In terms of our 4-6 runners, a different pair stepped up each meet to help us as a team. Nic Buss, Scott Nelson and Ethan Marshall each came through at different times this season and that was certainly true again at the section meet when Nic ran an awesome race, running a PR by about 20 seconds and Scott ran close to his PR. Those two performances, along with the lead runs of Cody, Josh and Drew, helped propel us to the state meet."
Hess (fourth), Friedrichsen (seventh) and Weis (10th) all earned individual state-meet qualifications at the Section 3 Meet (at Adrian), as well, giving the Cardinals three runners who could contend for All-State individual honors Saturday.
"Our main goal is to improve upon our team place from last year, hopefully getting into the top 10," declared Janiszeski. "It will take an awesome effort by each of the guys, but that's what we are striving for."
The Cardinals were 14th in the 16-team standings last year with 282 points, finishing just five points behind Martin County West. The Mavericks are also back this year, after having impressively won the Section 2A team title at Blue Earth Oct. 25.
Hess (29th team scoring, 54th overall) was Luverne's lead runner at St. Olaf last year, while seniors Nathan Stensland-Bos, Ryan Oye and Austin Stroeh joined Friedrichsen (51st team scoring, 83rd overall, LHS's third finisher) as the Cardinal scoring runners last year.
Stensland-Bos, Oye and Stroeh all graduated last spring, leaving the Cardinals with three top-notch runners to replace.
But the continued progress of Friedrichsen, Hess and Weis, along with the improvement of Buss, Nelson, Marshall and freshman Erik Wohnoutka have made getting back to Northfield a reality for Janiszeski and the Cardinals.
"Josh has been steady all season and is hungry to have a better race at the state meet," noted Janiszeski. "Cody has been racing really well recently and I expect him to continue that trend Saturday. We're hoping to get them both among the top 20-30 runners, which will be a challenge in the tough field of quality runners competing. But, I feel they are up to that challenge."
Weis, who passed two runners in his final kick at the section meet to make the top 10, has also impressed Janiszeski this fall.
"Drew has quietly had a great year," the coach said. "He is improving each week. If he had an off race, he came back with a great one the next meet. The experience of running at the state meet last year, will hopefully, pay off for him this year."
Janiszeski has been working on getting the Cardinals focused for a good team start Saturday.
"The state meet is quirky in that you have to position yourself in the first half mile or so," he explained. "If you get out of position, it is hard, and sometimes impossible, to gain it back. So, we want to get ourselves positioned well early in the race."
Fissiha, Lavoy, Blomgren will run individually
Worthington freshman Amanuel Fissiha, Tracy-Milroy-Balaton junior Matt Lavoy and Mountain Lake Area senior Kyle Blomgren will each be competing individually Saturday, having earned qualification at their respective section meets.
Fissiha capped an outstanding season for the Trojans by placing 14th in the highly-competitive Section 2AA meet at Buffalo (Oct. 26) and will compete in the Class AA state meet at 1 p.m. Saturday, also at St. Olaf.
"Amanuel ran a great race at the section meet, running a real good time (17:01) on a tough course," praised WHS head coach Ken Henkels. "Amanuel's been a hard worker in practice all season and it paid off for him with a state-meet trip."
Fissiha, who was a Hershey's track and field national qualifier in the 1,600-meter run last summer and holds the 14-and-under course record at Worthington's annual Turkey Day 10K road race, had two second-place finishes this season (Worthington and Jackson County Central), while placing third four times, including the Southwest Conference Meet.
Lavoy earned advancement to Saturday's Class A meet by running a stellar race in the Section 3A Meet at Adrian, finishing ninth overall with a time of 17:41. It will be his first race on the St. Olaf course.
Blomgren, likewise, will run at Northfield for the first time. He has enjoyed a fine career for the Wolverines, including this year's Red Rock Conference individual title. Blomgren benefitted from this year's new ruling, as he placed 13th at Adrian (17:56), but was the seventh runner (not from one of the two qualifying teams) to enter the chute and punched his ticket to the state meet.
A total of at least 150 runners are expected in each of the four races Saturday.
Canby's Nick Stoks, who finished fourth in last year's state meet, is a two-time Section 3A champion and is currently ranked No. 11 in the individual Class A boys' ratings.
MCW and Redwood Valley, are ranked fifth and sixth, respectively, in the Class A boys' team ratings.