CLOQUET - Standing beneath tall pine trees near the finish line of the Section 7A boys cross-country race at Cloquet Country Club, Eveleth-Gilbert’s Reed Melicher was approached by a classmate carrying a sign that read “The Original Reed Melicher Fan Club.”

Membership in the club likely swelled Thursday after Melicher turned a two-man race into a romp, his winning time of 16 minutes, 34.2 seconds well ahead of second-place finisher Danny Radtke, a Mesabi East senior, who covered the 5-kilometer course in 16:47.7.

Melicher and Radtke were neck-and-neck through the first

2 miles, their strides in sync as they pulled away from the pack.

Melicher made his move with a mile to go.

“I was hoping I could find a place to put in a little surge and get ahead of him,” the senior said.

Few were surprised that the race came down to the Iron Range rivals.

“I definitely expected it to be me and Danny for first place,” Melicher said. “I didn’t know which way it was going to go, but I ended up with the win.”

Radtke started fast in hopes of dropping as many runners as he could. Pretty soon, it was just him and Melicher as they opened up a commanding lead.

Radtke, though, didn’t follow when Melicher surged. He couldn’t. His mind was telling him one thing, his legs another.

“Seeing him go away, I felt like my legs were good and I knew I could get him, but it’s hard because it’s just not there,” Radtke said.

The two are accustomed to dueling down the stretch.

“One race I’ll beat him, next race he’ll beat me,” Radtke said. “That’s usually how it goes.”

Both qualified for the Nov. 1 state meet at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn. Likewise for Melicher’s teammates as Eveleth-Gilbert finished second in the team standings behind Proctor. The top two teams qualify for state, along with the top eight runners that aren’t on either of those teams.

Rounding out the top five individuals were Proctor’s Jacob Welch (17:13.4), Pentti Hanlon of Duluth Marshall (17:14.4) and Welch’s teammate, Kody Stevens (17:30.7).

Thursday’s conditions were just about ideal for fast running, with cloudy skies and temperatures in the mid-to-high 40s.

And Melicher capitalized by producing a personal-best time. After the race, he wasn’t sure where the winning surge came from.

“You just have to give it everything you’ve got,” he said. “You can’t really look back or slow down, so you just have to hope that you’ve got more than the other guy.”

Girls

Esko’s Kiminski rallies

to beat GNK runner

A peculiar site had developed by the halfway point of the girls 4K race: Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin’s Elyssa Peterson held a comfortable lead on defending section champ Kailee Kiminski of Esko.

It didn’t last.

“I was pacing myself, just running my race,” Kiminski said amid a throng of well-wishers. “I knew I had a kick at the end, so my goal was just to pick it up at the end, and it worked out well for me.”

The Esko senior ran a 15:10.3 to defend her title. Peterson, a diminutive sophomore who was all smiles after the race, was about 11 seconds back.

“I’m a little disappointed, but I’m also really proud of myself,” Peterson said. “I gave it my everything.”

As her once-healthy lead disappeared, Peterson said there was nothing she could do to stave off Kiminski.

“I heard her footsteps and I was like, ‘(Elyssa), you got this one,’ but I just didn’t have it today,” she said.

Carlton’s Erika Fox was third at 15:34.8, while Annika Voss of Proctor (15:44.7) edged Mesabi East’s Abbey Whiting (15:46.4) for fourth place.

Crosby-Ironton was the team champion, and South Ridge was second.

Section 7A Meet

At Cloquet Country Club

Boys 5K

Teams

1. Proctor, 50; 2. Eveleth-Gilbert, 76; 3. Mesabi East, 122; 4. Esko, 132; 5. Duluth Marshall, 136; 6. Moose Lake-Willow River/Barnum, 158; 7. Ely, 180; 8. Cook County-Two Harbors, 181; 9. Virginia, 225; 10. Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin, 227.

Individuals

(State Qualifiers)

1. Reed Melicher, EG, 16:34.2; 2. Danny Radtke, ME, 16:47.7; 3. Jacob Welch, Proc, 17:13.4; 4. Pentti Hanlon, Duluth Marshall, 17:14.4; 5. Kody Stevens, Proc, 17:30.7; 6. Teddy Pierce, Ely, 17:31.1; 7. Jake Paron, CC-TH, 17:32.3; 8. Alex Mercier, Proc, 17:41.3; 9. Ethan Olson, MLWRB, 17:42.9; 10. Kiviok Hight, CC-TH, 17:43.4; 11. Austin Lovaas, EG, 17:50.6; 12. Noah Axley-Cuellar, GNK, 17:52.6; 13. Seth Prigge, Ely, 17:57.2; 14. Garrett Sargent, Proc, 18:03.3; 15. Caleb Kelson, EG, 18:06.1; 20. Ben Nicolson, Proc, 18:20.6; 22. Brandon Lopez, EG, 18:23.4; 24. Jordan Bergquist, Proc, 18:27.6; 27. Jared Celley, EG, 18:32.5; 55. Jacob Witt, EG, 19:32.2; 56. Thomas Dougherty, Proc, 19:33; 86. Robert Kelson, EG, 20:42.9.

Girls 4K

Teams

1. Crosby-Ironton, 99; 2. South Ridge, 108; 3. Mesabi East, 133; 4. Esko, 143; 5. Ely, 147; 6. Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin, 161; 7. Moose Lake-Willow River/Barnum, 166; 8. Proctor, 171; 9. International Falls, 185; 10. Carlton, 251.

Individuals

(State Qualifiers)

1. Kailee Kiminski, Esko, 15:10.3; 2. Elyssa Peterson, GNK, 15:21; 3. Erika Fox, Carl, 15:34.8; 4. Annika Voss, Proc, 15:44.7; 5. Abbey Whiting, ME, 15:46.4; 6. Ashlee Siegle, D. Marshall, 15:47.6; 7. Juanita Gawboy, Northern Lights, 15:49.9; 8. Molly McCusker, CI, 15:50.3; 9. Emma Greenlee, ME, 15:51.1; 11. Margaret Stokman, CI, 15:54.1; 12. Gracelynn Otis, SR, 16:08.7; 16. Anna Hall, SR, 16:22.3; 18. Arianna LeMieur, CI, 16:28; 25. Darionna Campbell, SR, 16:51.8; 26. Hannah Simek, SR, 16:52.6; 33. Lauren Peterson, CI, 17:13.2; 36. Naomi Ringhand, CI, 17:18.6; 37. Lily Hall, SR, 17:21.7; 41. Annie Goodwin, CI, 17:28.8; 46. Miranda Berg, CI, 17:38.2; 58. Elizabeth Poskie, SR, 18:05; 96. Rachel Land, SR, 19:47.4.