Xander Schroeder put in a lot of miles this summer training for his final season of cross-country.

The work appeared to pay off after the Duluth Denfeld senior crossed the finish line at the Twin Ports Invitational Thursday, Aug. 26, at Lester Park Golf Course in second place overall with a time of 17 minutes, 18 seconds. The time blew away his previous personal best by more than 40 seconds.

“I started putting in a lot of miles over the summer and it was like senior year just kicked on,” Schroeder said. “This is one of my last meets, so I just have to start going for it this year — I got in front and didn’t look back.”

The meet was delayed by more than two hours after winds blanketed the area with smoke from the Greenwood Fire for the second time this week.

“It was weird,” Schroeder said. “When I woke up this morning it was really bad, but that it shifted was really nice. By the time we ran it wasn’t super bad, but when you get out there and you’re really huffing down the air, you can taste it a little. It feels a little off, but it’s a lot better than it was this morning.”

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Schroeder said his personal goal is to get his 5K time under 17 minutes this season, but his real goal is to help the Hunters get to the Class AA state meet this fall.

Denfeld coach Mike Scrignoli said that is a possibility with Schroeder and Charlie Juntunen finishing second and third overall at their first race.

“They had a good summer,” Scrignoli said. “That makes a big difference early in the year — they’re already in decent shape.”

Scrignoli said Peyton Bradbury, who finished 13th overall, typically improves over the season and will be one of the Hunters’ top five runners.

A couple of runners who would typically be in the top five chose not to run at Lester Park because of the air quality.

Similarly, several Duluth East boys and girls runners chose not to run because of the conditions, according to Greyhounds coach Dave Wicker. Wicker wasn’t concerned about the missed race and encouraged his runners to do what they felt was best for their health.

“We definitely wanted them to have that option if they or their parents didn’t feel safe,” he said.

Anna-Britta Helmer of Duluth East was the top female finisher for the Greyhounds with a time of 19 minutes, 59 second. 
Jamey Malcomb / Duluth News Tribune
Anna-Britta Helmer of Duluth East was the top female finisher for the Greyhounds with a time of 19 minutes, 59 second. Jamey Malcomb / Duluth News Tribune

The top runners Thursday for the Greyhounds were Mark Kaczmarczyk and Anna-Britta Helmer, who each finished fifth in their races. Kaczmaryk’s time of 17:42 was about 34 seconds slower than race winner Mason Sullivan of Farmington.

Other top runners for the Greyhound boys should be Simon Long, Oliver Miatke and Tyler Stark, Wicker said.

Helmer finished in 19:59, less than 30 seconds behind winner Marianah Scott of Farmington. Wicker said he expects Cora Nephew, Jenna Johnnson and Rowan Bixler to be his top girls this season.

Duluth East has strong numbers with 65 boys on the team and 60 girls, which will make practices competitive, according to Wicker.

“They’re good kids and they push each other,” he said. “They’ve always got somebody to challenge them in practice.”

East’s biggest challenge, Wicker said, is the new Section 7AAA the Greyhounds will compete in, now that the Minnesota State High School League will host three classes in cross country as of this season. No longer will they run against traditional rivals like Cloquet and Denfeld at the section meet.

Instead, the team’s closest rivals are Forest Lake and Cambridge-Isanti.

Cloquet, Esko ready for season

Cloquet and Esko have both had strong summers and expect to be competitive in Class AA and Class A, respectively.

Cloquet has a number of returning runners from 2020, including Miles Fischer, Jake Mertz and Cale Prosen for the boys and Amelia Allen, Victoria Nelson and Charlotte Ripp for the girls.

Lumberjacks coach Chandra Allen said many members of the team had strong track seasons, but need to stay healthy and injury free to be successful this fall.

Esko's Zach Erkkila celebrates as he crosses the finish line during the 2020 Section 7A cross-country championships at Cloquet Country Club Oct. 24. 
Tyler Schank / 2020 File / Cloquet Pine Journal
Esko's Zach Erkkila celebrates as he crosses the finish line during the 2020 Section 7A cross-country championships at Cloquet Country Club Oct. 24. Tyler Schank / 2020 File / Cloquet Pine Journal

Esko coach Jerimy Hallsten also touted his team’s off-season work, but the Eskomos return several runners for the boys and girls. Among the key runners for the Esko boys are Nate Rengo, Zach Erkkila and Michael Cornell.

The girls return several experienced runners as well, including Grace Shingledecker, Grace Hrabik and Lexi Tester.

"Many of our runners committed to consistent running and training over the summer so they are coming into the season with a solid training base," Hallsten said.

Twin Ports Invitational
At Lester Park Golf Course
Boys
Teams

1. Farmington, 29; 2. Duluth East, 48; 3. Duluth Denfeld, 69; 4. Hibbing, 92.
Individuals
1. Mason Sullivan, F, 17:08; 2. Xander Schroeder, DD, 17:18; 3. Charlie Juntunen, DD, 17:32; 4. Adam Johnson, F, 17:34; 5. Mark Kaczmarczyk, DE, 17:42; 8. Addison Kent, DE, 17:54; 9. Sam Blascyk, DE, 18:05; 10. Ben Westholm, DE, 18:21; 13. Peyton Bradbury, DD, 18:49; 16. Rory Fischbach, DE, 19:03; 55. Jacob Jarvi, DD, 22:41; 58. Nate Larson, DD, 23:49.

Girls
Teams
1. Farmington, 16; 2. Duluth East, 55; 3. Hibbing, 68.
Individuals

1. Marianah Scott, F, 19:30; 2. Mariah Fenske, F, 19:31; 3. Mackenzy Lipold, F, 19:35; Sophia Venning, F, 19:42; 5. Anna-Britta Helmer, DE, 19:59; 11. Sophia Revoir, DE, 21:32; 13. Liesl Cope-Schaeffer, DE, 21:43; 15. Stella Powell, DE, 22:08; 16. Veronica Wahman, DE, 22:29.