Cross Country: Area CC season swings into action

Les Knutson Daily Globe MOUNTAIN LAKE -- Several area Class A high school cross country teams open their 2016 seasons at the annual Wolverine Invitational at the Mountain Lake Golf Course on Wednesday.A total of 12 teams will be participating in ...

Les Knutson

Daily Globe

MOUNTAIN LAKE -- Several area Class A high school cross country teams open their 2016 seasons at the annual Wolverine Invitational at the Mountain Lake Golf Course on Wednesday.
A total of 12 teams will be participating in this year’s meet, which will be held in the morning. The event begins with the 5,000-meter varsity girls’ race at 10:00 a.m. The boys’ varsity competition over the same course follows with a 10:35 scheduled start time. The junior high girls (11:10 a.m.) and junior high boys (11:25 a.m.) will race over a 1,600-meter distance after the two varsity runs are completed.
Area teams competing include Adrian, Jackson County Central, Murray County Central/Fulda, Southwest Christian/Edgerton, Heron Lake-Okabena, Windom Area and host Mountain Lake Area. Five teams farther to the east -- Fairmont, Martin County West and a trio of combinations (Madelia/Truman/Granada-Huntley-East Chain/Martin Luther, Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial/Nicollet, and United South Central/Alden-Conger) -- complete the 12-team field.
Last year, Fairmont won the girls’ team title with a low score of 40 points, while MCC/Fulda captured the boys team championship with a winning score of 61.
Fairmont senior Jenna Pavich returns as the girls’ individual champion, while two-time boys gold-medalist John Roth of LC-WM/N graduated last spring.
Area girls likely to challenge Pavich up front this year include MCC/Fulda eighth-grader Morgan Gehl, Windom senior Christianna Green, Adrian freshman Moriah Bullerman and HL-O junior Rachel Salentiny. All four of those runners qualified individually for the 2015 state cross country meet.
Fairmont junior Iliana Ramon, JCC junior Jessica Christoffer, MCW eighth-grader Marissa Whitehead, Windom eighth-grader Gracie Bucher, HL-O junior Cheyenne Schaffer and MLA senior Liana Blomgren are among the other top runners who will be competing for the individual medals given out to the first 15.
Windom senior John Irwin, coming off a strong finish to his 2015 cross country campaign and a stellar 2016 track season, is the boys’ favorite Wednesday and will be leading a strong group of Eagles who will make a bid for the team title.
“John has developed into one of best distance runners in the area,” Eagles head coach Melissa Pletcher said. “We return several other boys who ran well last season and put in some miles this summer. We should have nice balance and depth as we anticipate an exciting season ahead.”
With a total of 25 boys participating in grades 7-12, the Eagles look to be contenders for Section 3A team honors by season’s end.
Seniors Isaac Tade, Nickolas Green and Jae Carlson are back from last year’s section team, which placed fourth (just eight points from second), along with junior Daniel Green and eighth-grader Cameron Alm. Junior AJ Fauglid, eighth-grader Patrick Green and first-year senior Yanick Tade give Windom an abundance of depth.
Isaac Tade and Nickolas Green, along with HL-O senior Logan Knutson, Adrian junior Brady Henning, a pair of MCC/Fulda runners -- senior Isaiah Olsem and freshman Justin Clarke -- and a trio of MLA runners -- senior Tommy Kraemer, along with sophomores Ryan Blomgren and Josiah Gardiner -- could be among the leading area individuals chasing Irwin.
MCW senior Joshua Bjerken, Fairmont sophomore Andrew Moeller, Fairmont junior Nathan Willett and LC-WM/N senior Seth Hartman are among the runners from the eastern teams who will likely be up near the front, challenging for the medals.

Cardinal girls, Arrow boys                                                                                                                                              have deep teams, including                                                                                                                                     stellar lead runners Luverne and Pipestone Area are not competing at Mountain Lake. But as the season unfolds, both schools will experience lots of success this fall.
Luverne’s girls are the returning Section 3A team champions and the Cardinals finished an impressive fourth at the 2015 Class A State Meet.
Senior Madi Schandelmeier (first), sophomore Gabi Ferrell (fifth) and eighth-grader Regan Feit (ninth) paced Luverne’s section victory last year.
“We have three girls returning who were all individual (state-meet) qualifiers last year,” LHS head coach Pete Janiszeski said. “It takes five to get a good team score and we return all seven girls who ran for us in the section and state meets last year, plus both of our alternates. We will have good depth and lots of experience. We are hoping to be stronger and more confident in our racing this year.”
Sophomore Dalton DeSollar is coming off a good track season, followed by a lot of summer running. He leads a young group of boys, who Janiszeski believes could develop into a fine team by season’s end if they “keep working hard and stay focused on their goals.”
At Pipestone, head coach Erin Clauson-Gordon has six returning boys -- paced by two-time state individual qualifier Michael Suda -- and a strong core of experienced girls with lead runners Angel Martens and Livia Wallace, both having advanced to the 2015 state meet.
Suda, now a junior, is an exceptional all-around athlete, owning an individual wrestling state championship. Seniors Matthew Kennedy, Lucas Griebel and Emerson Winter return, along with junior Carter Colemer and eighth-grader Seth Lingen. The Arrows finished fifth as a team in the 2015 section meet, just 12 points behind Windom and within 20 points of second-place Redwood Valley.
“This group is excited to see what the year brings,” Clauson-Gordon said about the PA boys. “They do have some collective goals as a team.”
Joining Martens (a junior) and Wallace (a senior) for the Arrow girls senior Rachel Skyberg, eighth-grader Jori Strasser and sophomore Michelle Neece -- a trio of talented all-around athletes -- who could give PA a solid top five.
“The girls surprised themselves with their strong finish (third) in the team standings at last year’s section meet,” summed up Clauson-Gordon. “They are striving to improve their times this year.”
This will be the second season of varsity girls running the same 5,000-meter (3.1 miles) distance as the boys have been doing for decades.
The Red Rock Conference Meet will be run this season at Adrian on Oct. 17, while the Big South Conference Meet will be at Worthington the next day.  Luverne hosts the Section 3A Meet on Oct. 27 where the best runners will strive to qualify for the state meet at St. Olaf College in Northfield on Nov. 5.

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