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Prep cross country: Area runners fly to state at Section 3A Meet

Adrian senior Nicole Slater sprints to the finish, winning the girls' individual title at Section 3A cross country competition Thursday afternoon in Adrian.

Les Knutson

Daily Globe

ADRIAN — Impressively placing four runners among the top-14 finishers Thursday, the well-balanced Luverne Cardinals earned a team trip to this year’s State Class A high school cross country meet by virtue of a solid second-place performance at the 20-team Section 3A meet at the always-challenging Adrian Golf Course.

While the Cardinals were battling with Lac qui Parle Valley/Dawson-Boyd for team honors, the individual race for first place was keenly-contested between a trio of Minnesota’s bests — before Adrian senior Nicole Slater took command with about 1,200 meters remaining.

Slater, a veteran of five AHS state-qualifying teams, was not to be denied on her final race on her favorite course.

Pulling away from Luverne freshman Madison Schandelmeier and Redwood Valley junior Kayla Huhnerkoch, Slater blazed a 4,000-meter time of 14 minutes, 44.4 seconds — winning by nearly 18 seconds.

“I just tried to do my best,” summed up a smiling Slater after the awards presentation. “This was my last race here and I wanted to run well, which I had to if I was going to keep pace with the leaders.”

Huhnerkoch and Schandelmeier, who finished one-two in last year’s section meet, ran with Slater in the lead for about 2,800 meters. But, Slater — who placed fifth in 2012 —utilized her smooth stride and fine speed to surge ahead.

“Once Nicole took the lead, she wasn’t going to get caught,” summed up first-year Adrian head coach Eric Kiers. “She works so hard and has great determination. The race belonged to her today.”

Schandelmeier repeated her second-place finish, clocked at 15:02.3, while LQPV/DB junior Alaysia Freetly caught and passed Huhnerkoch, helping the Eagles edge Luverne for the team title.

Freetly (15:14.0) and Huhnerkoch (15:16.8) took third and fourth, respectively, as the anticipated top four — although the finish order was difficult to predict — finished at the front.

Prior to the meet, all four were ranked among the state’s top-eight Class A runners, as Huhnerkoch (second), Schandelmeier (third), Freetly (seventh) and Slater (eighth) were each highly-regarded by the coaches’ association poll.

Slater’s performance Thursday may change that order a bit before next week’s state meet at St. Olaf College in Northfield on Nov. 2.

“I’m just happy to get the chance to run at the state meet again,” concluded Slater, who be running at St. Olaf for the sixth time.

Cardinals edged by four points for title

Paced by Schandelmeier, senior Makayla Hohn (seventh, 15:32.6), seventh-grader Gabrielle Ferrell (ninth, 15:40.8) and freshman Mariah Aukes (14th 15:52.4), along with the important fifth runner finish of freshman Zayna Hustoft (38th team scoring, 17:07.9), the Cardinals tallied a fine score of 70 points (2-7-9-14-38), propelling them back to the state meet after a one-year absence.

LQPV/D-B (3-10-16-18-19) displayed exceptional balance between its third and fifth runners, claiming the section team championship with a low score of 66.

“Obviously, we would have liked to have scored five less points and won,” said LHS head coach Pete Janiszeski. “But, all of our girls, 1-7, ran season-best times or close, so we competed very well and lived to see another day — which is what we wanted, to take the whole team to the state meet again.”

The Cardinals, who last ran as a team at St. Olaf two years ago, have now qualified seven times since 2002.

Hohn, Schandelmeier, Aukes and Hustoft all ran on Luverne’s 2011 state-meet squad.

Canby/Minneota/Lincoln HI, paced by sixth-place individual finisher Leah Jessen (15:32.1), finished a clear-cut third in the team standings with 112 points.

Salentiny, Hildebrandt, Green, Edwards qualify individually for state

Redwood Valley edged an eighth-grade-loaded Southwestern United squad, 179-181, for fourth.

The Wildcats, who finished ninth in the team standings last year (259 points) with five seventh-graders, improved four notches and 78 points this year, paced by state-meet individual qualifiers Rachel Salentiny (eighth, 15:32.7) and MaKayla Edwards (13th, 15:49.1).

Edwards claimed the final advancing individual place, entering the chute right on the heels of both Mountain Lake Area junior Lydia Hildebrandt (11th, 15:47.6) and Windom freshman Christianna Green (12th, 15:48.7), who both had strong finishing kicks to qualify for Northfield.

LQPV/D-B sophomore Kelly Kvaal (10th, 15:45.9) joined Schandelmeier, Freetly, Hohn and Ferrell as members of the two state-advancing teams and did not count in the individual mix, which qualified the first eight from the remaining 18 teams.

Montevideo sophomore Claire Sulflow (fifth, 15:29.3) led her team to a sixth-place team finish with 196 points, followed by Jackson County Central (198), Adrian (226), MLA (229), Tracy-Milroy-Balaton (230), Pipestone Area (241), Windom (314), Southwest Christian (330), Hendricks (343), Springfield/Cedar Mountain (408) and Lakeview (412).

Murray County Central/Fulda, MACCRAY/Renville County West, Yellow Medicine East and BOLD were all incomplete.