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Pack mentality leads Grand Rapids girls in 7AA

CLOQUET -- When you see the first Grand Rapids finisher, many more Thunderhawk runners are probably right behind. On Thursday afternoon, the team's top four girls were 32 seconds apart and the top five just 55 seconds apart in the Section 7AA hig...

CLOQUET -- When you see the first Grand Rapids finisher, many more Thunderhawk runners are probably right behind.

On Thursday afternoon, the team's top four girls were 32 seconds apart and the top five just 55 seconds apart in the Section 7AA high school cross country meet at Cloquet Country Club.

That pack mentality led unranked Grand Rapids to a second straight section team championship.

"We go out and push each other every day and have fun, and you never know who's going to finish first," said Grand Rapids junior Kayla Erickson. "It seems like we switch off with a new lead runner every single race."

Other local teams qualifying for state were the Duluth East boys and both Esko boys and girls teams.

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For Grand Rapids, team captain Erickson led the way, placing third, and was followed by ninth-grader Marissa Salo in eighth, seventh-grader Erin Baker in 10th, sophomore Morgan Illikainen in 12th and seventh-grader Aspen Anderson in 24th. Elk River junior Emma Bates won a second straight individual championship in 15 minutes, 9.5 seconds for 4,000 meters.

Carlton ninth-grader Lindsey Dahl-Holm took the Section 7A title in 15:48.5, while Crosby-Ironton was the top team.

In Section 7A boys, top-ranked Pequot Lakes senior Clayton Foster won a second straight title in 16:50.3 for 5,000 meters to lead the No. 3 Patriots to the team championship.

St. Francis sophomore Adam Zutz was the Section 7AA winner in 16:23.8, while No. 6 Forest Lake took a second straight team title on an ideal sunny, 40-degree day.

The top 10 finishers and top two teams in each race advanced to the Minnesota prep championships Nov. 1 in Northfield, Minn.

Girls

Dahl-Holm, who lives in Cloquet, led last year's Section 7A race, but ultimately finished third. She took the lead early Thursday and finished nine seconds ahead of Pequot Lakes sophomore Kylie Beltz.

"I just focused on trying to catch the biker leading us," Dahl-Holm said.

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Eighth-graders Marisa Shady and Kallyn Knutson, placing fourth and fifth, respectively, led defending champion Esko to second place and a state-meet berth.

Bates has won six of nine races this year and is the only girl to win a section title in Elk River history. She placed third in the 2007 Class AA state meet.

Hibbing junior Tatum Garrity was stride-for-stride with Bates through half of the section race before finishing second, eight seconds back, in 15:17.3.

Boys

Following Zutz and Forest Lake senior Nate Moen in Section 7AA, were five Northland stars -- Pat Richie of Grand Rapids, Sam Saccoman and Joel Johnson of Hibbing, Reuben Verdoljak of Duluth East and Pat Marx of Grand Rapids.

Verdoljak led East to second place and its 10th state-meet entry in 11 years.

Zutz was third in Section 7AA last season as a ninth grader and 58th in the state meet. He's won seven of 10 races this year.

Foster became the first runner in Pequot Lakes history to run in a state meet four years ago as a ninth-grader, while the Patriots went as a team for the first time last year. He says goals this year are for an individual and team state titles.

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Cromwell-Floodwood junior Jordan Smith was second, 39 seconds behind Foster, in 17:29.6, in the midst of a busy week. He's a wide receiver, safety and kicker for the No. 8-ranked Cromwell Nine-Man football team. Cromwell won a Section 5 quarterfinal game Tuesday and is home against Northland-Remer in Saturday's semifinals.

Adam Eskuri and Jackson Lindquist, finishing fifth and sixth respectively, helped Esko to second place and a second straight state-meet berth.

Related Topics: GRAND RAPIDS
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