PREP CROSS COUNTRY: Cook, Wilgenburg earn All-State cross country honors

NORTHFIELD -- A pair of area seniors -- Justin Cook from Jackson County Central and Whitney Wilgenburg from Hills-Beaver Creek/Ellsworth -- capped their brilliant high school cross country careers Saturday by each earning All-State honors at St. ...

JCC's Strom
Aaron Hagen/Daily Globe Jackson County Central's Marc Strom (left) outruns Plainview-Elgin-Millville's Andrew LeBeau during Saturday's Class A state cross country meet.

NORTHFIELD -- A pair of area seniors -- Justin Cook from Jackson County Central and Whitney Wilgenburg from Hills-Beaver Creek/Ellsworth -- capped their brilliant high school cross country careers Saturday by each earning All-State honors at St. Olaf College Saturday morning.

Competing in the 161-runner Class A boys' meet, Cook got off to a great start and finished an impressive eighth, covering the 5,000-meter distance in a sparkling time of 16 minutes, 17.2 seconds.

"I felt really good the whole race," summed up Cook, who improved 17 places from his 25th-place finish (17:11.2) in 2009.

"We had a perfect start, which was wide-open, allowing us to go out nice and easy," Cook said about the inside lane that the Section 3A individual qualifiers drew. "I tucked in about fourth-place and tried to key off of some familiar people (Mubarik Musa and O.J. Ojullu of Worthington). The first mile went by really fast."

Cook hit the mile mark in 4:53 and passed the two-mile split in 10:05, as he stayed among the leaders.


While not quite being able to hold his pace later in the race, the JCC ace runner responded with a strong finishing kick, moving from 10th to eighth in the final kick.

"I was pleased with my finish," he concluded. "It was beautiful weather and everything went good. It was a great race to be a part of."

Wilgenburg later ran with the leaders in the girls' 4,000-meter race and finished an impressive 15th -- among 153 total finishers -- with a time of 15:23.7, as she was the third runner from all of Section 3A to enter the finish chute.

"Whitney really ran a good race," praised her coach Tom Goehle. "She positioned herself well early and hung with the top pack most of the way."

The top two finishers from the Section 3A meet -- Leah Jessen from Canby/Minneota/Lincoln HI and Gabi Swoboda from Redwood Valley -- finished seventh and ninth, respectively, Saturday with times of 15:10.2 and 15:15.2.

Wilgenburg, who finished fifth in the section meet, outran a couple of girls Saturday who were ahead of in that meet.

"I would have liked a better time," Wilgenburg said after competing in her first-ever state meet. "But, this was such a good experience and so much fun getting to run here. I appreciate Coach Goehle so much -- he's just been awesome and has helped me so much."

Hoflock, Strom finish in the 50's, Weitganant, Pater, Curley break 18:00


While Cook and Wilgenburg, along with Worthington's Mubarik Musa (third) and O.J. Ojullu (10th) and Adrian's Jordin Kopplow (16th) and Megan Sauer (18th) were the only six area runners to earn All-State status (top 25), there were several other qualifying individuals that ran also ran very well.

Tracy-Milroy-Balaton senior Jeremy Hoflock ran the distance in 17:20.9 and finished 53rd, improving his place by 35 spots and his time by 43 seconds.

"It went good," said Hoflock about his second state meet. "I'm pretty satisfied with my race and with my cross country experience. It's been a lot of fun."

"Jeremy's finish looked amazing," chimed in T-M-B coach Marie Hanson. "He ran a nice race.'

Hoflock is looking forward to basketball and noted how the "physical and mental toughness" required in cross country has helped him prepare for his next season.

JCC senior Marc Strom -- running in his fourth consecutive state meet -- also improved dramatically from a year ago.

Utilizing a good finishing kick, Strom passed several runners in the final stretch and placed 56th (17:23.1).

"I felt good," summed up Strom, who improved 26 places and 33 seconds from 2009. "I had a stronger finish than in a few of my last races of the season. It's been a fun ride, running cross country here at JCC."


H-BC/E junior Ryan Weitgenant (72, 17:42.2), Adrian junior Jace Pater (88, 17:56.3) and Windom senior John Curley (92, 17:59.7) also represented the area in the boys' race, each of them running the course under 18 minutes.

"I felt pretty good," said Weitgenant about his first-ever state race. "The last 800 was kind of all down hill and I passed five or six runners -- I'd love to come back here and run again, I'd know the course better.

Pater, who tossed off his gloves late in the race Saturday as he began his final kick to the finish, also felt good about his performance.

"This was my best race at the state," said Pater, who ran with AHS teams in each of the past two seasons. "Hopefully, I'll be back."

For Curley, his race wasn't quite as good as he expected.

"I was sick earlier in the week, going home early one day and staying home the next," the first-time state qualifier said. "Missing those two days of practice may have hurt some. But, not many runners even get the chance to run here at state, so I'm happy with getting this chance."

Hohn, Hildebrandt, Turner, Harder all finish well

Luverne freshman Makayla Hohn ran the course in 15:51.7 and finished 37th, as she put the capper on an outstanding season.


"This was not my best race," said Hohn, who finished an impressive third in the section meet nine days earlier. "But it's exciting to be here and it's a fun experience."

Mountain Lake/Butterfield-Odin eighth-grader Lydia Hildebrandt utilized a strong finish to claim 54th-place in the girls' race with a time of 16:00.3.

"It was pretty exciting," summed up Hildebrandt about her race. "I put in a surge about half-way through and was able to pass several runners. My time was tied for my second-best ever, so I was happy with that."

An all-around athlete at ML/B-O, Hildebrandt improved 20 seconds from her 2009 state-meet time when her 50th-place overall finish helped the Wolverines earn third-place in the team standings.

Windom senior Emily Turner qualified for her first-ever state meet and went out fast, churning an opening mile time of 5:46.

"I was told that I was in 17th-place at about the mile," said Turner, who finished 55th (16:01.2). "I went out a little too fast and the last mile -- through the woods -- was really tough. But, getting the chance to run in this meet was sure a great experience."

ML/B-O freshman Stacey Harder, like Hildebrandt, moved up well during the second half of the race.

Harder passed the mile mark at 6:08 and finished in 73rd-place with a time of 16:15.9.


"Both Lydia and Stacey ran good races in the state meet," summed up ML/B-O coach Mike Nelson about his two young runners, who each paced themselves well over the state meet course.

Girls' start
Aaron Hagen/Daily Globe Mountain Lake/Butterfield-Odin's Stacey Harder (from left) and Lydia Hildebrandt, Windom's Emily Turner, Hills-Beaver Creek/Ellsworth's Whitney Wilgenburg and Luverne's Makayla Hohn start Saturday's Class A girls' cross country race Saturday at St. Olaf College in Northfield.

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