Class A state cross country: Suda leads the pack

NORTHFIELD -- Despite being tripped and falling to the ground about halfway through Saturday's Class A State High School Cross Country Meet on the campus of St. Olaf College, Pipestone Area sophomore Michael Suda finished an impressive ninth -- a...

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DAN RING/WASECA COUNTY NEWS Pipestone Area’s Michael Suda (929) pulls to the front of a pack during the Class A State Cross Country Meet Saturday. Suda, a sophomore, took ninth overall with a time of 16:26.8.

NORTHFIELD - Despite being tripped and falling to the ground about halfway through Saturday’s Class A State High School Cross Country Meet on the campus of St. Olaf College, Pipestone Area sophomore Michael Suda finished an impressive ninth - among a field of 176 runners - and earned All-State honors, along with an individual medal.
Suda clocked a new personal record (PR) time of 16 minutes, 26.8 seconds over the slightly-modified 5,000-meter course at St. Olaf where the state meet has been held annually since 1992.
“It happened about halfway around the new part of the course, on the backside of the pond,” said Suda about his fall. “I kind of got tangled up with another runner and tripped. I heard him say ‘sorry’ as I fell to the ground. But, I got up quickly and sort of sprinted back to where I was. I don’t think that I really lost any places. If I did, I got them back with my surge. It really kind of woke me up and got me focused on racing to the finish.”
Suda’s spill happened nearly 3,000 meters into the race and had little effect on his all-state performance, which capped a remarkable fall campaign for the talented and hard-working all-around athlete.
“Ever since losing in the state championship match (Class A wrestling tournament, 120 pounds) last year, I’ve worked really hard to get better,” Suda said about his consistent off-season preparation which included lots of long-mileage runs over the summer. “Today, I just felt comfortable. It wasn’t so cold, like it was at the section meet (at Madison, Oct. 29) and I had a very good warm up and just really felt ready to run. Once the race started, I found my groove early and was able to stay there.”
PA head coach Erin Clauson-Gordon was delighted at Suda’s high finish Saturday.
“I was shocked when I saw him come out of the woods (about 500 meters from the finish) in ninth place,” she said. “I knew that’s where he wanted to be and I was so happy for him because he has trained so hard to get as good as he is.”
During that final stretch run, Suda temporarily moved into eighth place, but was caught before the finish by West Central Area junior Ryley Nelson (16:25.9) who entered the chute less than a second before the Arrow ace.

Suda’s all-state (Top 25) performance was the first one for a boy from the Daily Globe coverage area since 2010 when a trio of local runners - Worthington junior Mubarik Musa (third), Jackson County Central senior Justin Cook (eighth) and Worthington senior OJ Ojullu (10th) - each accomplished that honor. Musa won the Class A state title as a sophomore in 2009. Ojullu was sixth, Adrian senior Nate Reyne was 20th and Cook finished 25th that same year as four area runners claimed all-state honors.
After running in Class A for several years, Worthington moved up Class AA in 2011, Musa’s senior year.
Suda, who finished third in this year’s Section 3A Meet was the section’s top finisher by 14 places Saturday. Montevideo junior Kurt TeBeest (the two-time section champion) placed 23rd (16:48.5), followed by Canby/Minneota sophomore Anthony Wollum (26th, 16:56.1) and Lac qui Parle Valley/Dawson-Boyd sophomore Keiser Freetly (33rd, 17:04.2).
LaCrescent junior Zach Emery (16:07.8) outkicked Mora junior Michael Schwinghamer (16:11.1) over the last 200 meters to win this year’s individual Class A title. Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial senior John Roth, who has won a lot of area meets, finished fourth (16:18.5) and Fairmont senior Josh Sundblad placed 25th (16:51.8).
Schandelmeier earns fourth straight all-state distinction
Luverne junior Madi Schandelmeier paced her Luverne Cardinals to a fourth-place team finish as she finished 18th overall (seventh among team competitors) with a time of 19:38.2 over the exact same course that the boys ran.
It was the first time that the girls ran 5,000 meters after running a 4,000-meter distance the previous 21 years.
It was Schandlemeier’s fourth consecutive all-state finish after placing ninth in 2012, sixth two years ago and second in 2014.
The area’s next-best girls’ finish was notched by PA junior Livia Wallace, who sliced 16.2 seconds off her section time and placed an impressive 36th (20:04.6) in her state-meet debut.
“Livia ran lights out,” Gordon said. “I am so proud of how well she competed and kept moving up at a steady pace. She really had a great day.”
Wallace, who placed seventh at the section meet, was the fourth girl from all of Section 3A to finish Saturday.
Windom Area junior John Irwin continued his torrid late-season success by going out fast and staying with the leaders. He ran his third consecutive strong race, finishing 40th with a time of 17:10.3, as the fifth boy from Section 3A to enter the chute.
“John sure finished his season with three straight great races,” said Eagles’ head coach Melissa Pletcher. “He made a strong showing in his first race at state.”
Heron Lake-Okabena sophomore Rachel Salentiny, running at St. Olaf for the third year in a row, moved up progressively through the field and placed 53rd with a near PR time of 20:22.0. Salentiny was positioned around 70th at the 2,000-meter mark, but passed more than a dozen runners in the final 3,000.
“It went by so fast,” Salentiny said of the race. “I felt strong going through the woods and it was a good feeling to be passing runners and moving up.”
After finishing 12th in the section meet, Salentiny was the eighth girls from Section 3A to finish Saturday.
Entering the chute nearly together, about eight seconds behind Salentiny, were Murray County Central/Fulda seventh-grader Morgan Gehl (61st, 22:29.7) and Adrian eighth-grader Moriah Bullerman (62nd, 22:30.0).
“Morgan had fun,” said MCC/F coach Dominick Damm. “She was all smiles when she finished. I was impressed with how well she ran and how she maintained her even pace all the way. Sticking with Bullerman really helped. Those two young runners are good friends and are great competition for each other.”
PA sophomore Angel Martens (70, 20:36.2) and Windom junior Christianna Green (73, 20:37.8) gave good accounts of themselves, too, Saturday as they both finished well among the upper half.
Green, running in her third straight meet, came across before 103 other finishers, while Martens - who ran under 20 minutes while placing second at the section meet - was competing at the state meet for the first time.
“It was good experience for Angel,” summed up Gordon. “She had a great season and for us to have three runners up here competing at this level was just awesome.”
Erickson, Hartle cap stellar careers with fine performances
While nine of the area runners who qualified for this year’s state meet have a chance to return next season, Saturday’s state meet capped brilliant cross country careers for MCC/F seniors Jack Erickson and Clayton Hartle, who each qualified for a second straight time.
Running together for much of the distance, the two Rebels were positioned toward the front of the middle of the huge pack.
“They were pretty much together at the two-mile mark,” Damm said. “But Jack really started passing people with his strong finish coming down hill through the woods. He had a very good last 1,000 meters.”
Erickson finished 60th with a time of 17:22.5, improving 49 places and 14.4 seconds from last year (109, 17:36.9).
Hartle entered the chute 89th with a time of 17:38.7, not quite as fast as his 85 th-place time of 17:23.7 in 2014.
“That shows you how jammed up the field is,” Damm said. “Jack and Clayton were separated by just 16 seconds, but were 29 places apart.”
Erickson and Hartle each enjoyed remarkable success for the Rebels and were consistent lead runners at area meets over the past three seasons.
“I’ve said it before,” Damm said. “Those two guys are going to be hard to replace. They were both great leaders and had excellent careers for us.”

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