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Cross country: Luverne's Schandelmeier, HL-O's Salentiny lead the way

Les Knutson

Daily Globe

LUVERNE — With spunky sophomore Madison Schandelmeier ranked as Minnesota’s fourth-best Class A girls’ cross country runner, the Luverne Cardinals are rated No. 8 in the team rankings of the pre-season poll released earlier this month by the state cross country coaches association.

Schandelmeier placed an impressive sixth in last year’s Class A state meet, running the 4,000-meter course in Northfield in 15:02.4, leading the Cardinals to a seventh-place team finish.

While LHS graduated team leader Makayla Hohn, a multiple-time performer at the state meet, the Cardinals return exceptional runners in eighth-grader Gabrielle Ferrell and sophomore Mariah Aukes.

“We have three runners back who ran very well for us all of last season,” said LHS head coach Pete Janiszeski. “To advance back to the state meet, it will take at least five runners all having a good day at the section meet.”

This year’s Section 3A meet, for the first time since 2002, will not be run at the Adrian Country Club. The meet will move north to the Madison Golf Course (Oct. 23) and will be hosted by the combination of Lac qui Parle Valley/Dawson-Boyd, the state’s top-ranked Class A girls’ team after the Eagles won Section 3 and finished second at the state meet in 2013.

In just its third year back as a renewed program, after a five-year absence, Heron Lake-Okabena has returned to its original name (the Wildcats ran as Southwestern United the past two seasons) and has a fine young girls’ team featuring six freshmen.

After qualifying for last year’s state meet, HL-O’s ace runner Rachel Salentiny finished 13th at Northfield and earned a ninth-place ranking in this year’s pre-season poll, giving the area a pair of highly-regarded girls. Wildcat teammate MaKayla Edwards also ran well in last year’s state meet (35th) after helping her team place fifth (just two points from fourth) at the 2013 section meet.

Windom Area sophomore Christianna Green, Mountain Lake Area senior Lydia Hildebrandt, Tracy-Milroy-Balaton senior Cassandra Hook, Jackson County Central freshman Jessica Christoffer and Adrian senior Morgan Sauer are among the top girls’ returning runners.

Salentiny (15:21), Christoffer (15:31) and Edwards (15:47) have already clocked 4,000-meter race times under 16 minutes and the calendar hasn’t even turned to September.

MCW is state’s top-ranked Class A boys’ team; Weis, Hartle, Erickson, Recker among top individuals Martin County West, which returns all seven runners from its fifth-place finish at last year’s Class A state meet, is the preseason poll’s top-ranked boys’ team.

The Mavericks displayed their exceptional depth in Wednesday’s team victory at Mountain Lake, having six of the meet’s first 12 finishers, including three of the top six.

MCW will be in Worthington Sept. 11 to defend their team title at the Turkey Trot.

Both Luverne and MCC, who finished fifth and sixth, respectively, at last year’s section meet return a number of fine runners to lead their 2014 squads.

The Cardinals graduated an exceptional runner and leader in Cody Hess, but return seniors Drew Weis and Ethan Marshall, along with junior Erik Wohnoutka. Weis finished 14th at last year’s section meet.

MCC won the Red Rock Conference with a 1-2-3 sweep, but graduated individual champion Andy Garza. Clayton Hartle and Jack Erickson, both juniors, return and are joined up front by sophomore Isaiah Olsem, as all three of the lead Rebels have looked good so far this fall.

Adrian senior Taylor Recker placed 15th at the 2013 section meet and leads an improved group of Dragons, while Pipestone Area freshman Michael Suda, Windom senior Aaron Axford, HL-O sophomore Logan Knutson and MLA sophomore Tommy Kraemer each experienced varsity success a year ago.

Dillon Mulske, a junior running for the combination of Southwest Christian and Edgerton, is a rookie cross country runner, but enjoyed a great season as a distance runner in track last spring. Mulske ran well in his first-ever race over hills Wednesday at Mountain Lake.

Some of the dates of the area’s other Invitational meets include Tracy (Sept. 4), Luverne (Sept. 6), Windom (Sept. 15), JCC (Sept. 18), MCC (Sept. 23), Pipestone (Sept. 29), Luverne (Oct. 2) and Adrian (Oct. 7).

The five-team Red Rock Conference Meet will be at Slayton Oct. 13 and the 13-team Big South (divided into two classes) Conference Meet will be run at Windom Oct. 14.