Prep cross country: Section 7 runners head to starting line
Cloquet Country Club will not host a section meet for the first time in decades; Superior’s McMeekin among Saturday’s Wisconsin state-meet competitors.
DULUTH — The Section 7AAA, 7AA and 7A boys and girls cross country championships are Thursday, Oct. 27, at Anoka (Minnesota) High School, Hibbing Golf Course and Lester Park Golf Course in Duluth, respectively.
This is the second year of three-class cross country in Minnesota but the first time in decades that Cloquet Country Club hasn’t served as a host.
The Section 7AAA meet in Anoka begins with the boys’ five-kilometer race at 11:30 a.m. and the girls at 12:10 p.m. Duluth East is the Northland’s lone representative in the section, and the Greyhounds’ girls team should be competitive, with seven runners who are very close. Freshman Carolina Arvold and sophomore Anna-Briita Hellmer lead the way. The East boys, meanwhile, will be led by a pair of seniors, Oliver Miatke and Mark Kazcmarczyk.
The Section 7AA meet in Hibbing will feature the girls race at 1 p.m. and the boys at 1:45 p.m.
The Hibbing girls and the Rock Ridge boys are the defending section team champions.
While Hibbing was the heavy favorite to win the girls team title at the Lake Superior Conference championships two weeks ago at Grand View Golf Links in Duluth, Proctor, the defending champs, came in second to the Bluejackets by a mere point.
“Our girls ran our best race of the year, thus far, and it came down to a swing here and there down the last 100 meters to decide the championship,” Rails coach Lowell Harnell said. “All our girls seemed to rule the hills at Grand View.”
That included Lowell’s daughter, Lizzy, a sophomore who finished second in the LSC meet to Superior’s Tayler McMeekin.
Rock Ridge freshman Lexi Lamppa is the defending Section 7AA girls champion and her twin sister, Maija, finished third last year to Duluth Denfeld’s Grace McCormick.
Lexi Lamppa had knee surgery this summer, which allowed for modified training this season, at best. However, the Wolverines feel she is close to where she was at last year.
“The Lamppas are ready to run,” Rock Ridge coach Chris Ismil said. “Maija Lamppa has been leading the way this season followed closely by newcomer Nora Stark, also in ninth grade, and then Lexi, Miia Johnson, Katelyn Torrel, Avah Kraushaar and Brynely Heisel. Our girls have come a long way this season and are in the mix with the top teams in our section.”
Ismil expects Hibbing, North Shore and Proctor to all be strong.
“It’s going to be a very competitive meet,” he said. “The Hibbing Golf Course is flat and fast so we should see solid times.”
Rock Ridge senior Cameron Stocke, one of the most decorated track athletes to come out of the Northland, is the defending boys champion.
“I am 100% good to go for Thursday,” Stocke said, and that, of course, is bad news for the competition.
The Rock Ridge boys should contend for the team title with Stocke leading the pack followed by Jack Kendall, Jake Bradach, Jared Delich, Connor Matschiner, John Kendall and Casey Aune.
“All our runners are healthy and feeling good,” Ismil said.
Stocke turned on the speed late to win the 7AA title last year in 16 minutes, 13.1 seconds, with senior teammate Aaron Nelson second in 16:41.8 and Cloquet junior Miles Fischer third in 16:49.1.
Rock Ridge, in the first year of the cross country co-op between Virginia and Eveleth-Gilbert, held off the Lumberjacks for the boys team title.
Fischer, now a senior and the two-time defending LSC boys champion, should also contend Thursday in Hibbing.
The Section 7A meet in Duluth will have the boys race at noon followed by the girls at 12:50 p.m.
Cromwell-Wright/Floodwood senior Noah Foster and South Ridge sophomore Addison Burckhardt are the defending Section 7A boys and girls individual champions.
The Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin Titans topped Esko last year to win their fourth straight Section 7A boys team title last year while qualifying for the state meet for the seventh straight year.
“We are looking forward to Thursday,” said Titans coach William Floersheim. “My boys will be in the middle of things again. Moose Lake and Ely boys are both very good. It will be tight at the top among three teams from the looks of it.”
Carlton-Wrenshall is the defending girls Section 7A team champion. Floersheim is hoping his girls runners, Lola Champlin and Emma Williams, can qualify individually should the Titans not advance as a team.
The top two teams and top six individuals not on those teams advance to the state meet Saturday, Nov. 5, at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota.
“The girls’ race will be really tight as well,” Floersheim said. “South Ridge looks to be the best team, but Carlton-Wrenshall is really good, too. The Ely girls are very good and a few teams like ours and Moose Lake have a chance to contend with really remarkable days.”
Superior’s McMeekin headlines list of Wisconsin state qualifiers
The aforementioned Tayler McMeekin should be among Northwest Wisconsin’s top runners at the Wisconsin State Boys and Girls Cross Country Championships Saturday, Oct. 29, at the Ridges Golf Course in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin.
The girls races start at noon (Division 3), 12:40 p.m. (Division 2) and 1:20 p.m. (Division 1), while the boys are at 2 p.m., 2:35 p.m. and 3:10 p.m., in the same divisional order.
McMeekin qualified for the Division 1 meet with a second-place finish at sectionals last weekend in West Salem, Wisconsin.
In a heartbreaker, Superior’s Jacob Lind missed qualifying by 5.5 seconds.
McMeekin, a sophomore, was pretty good as a freshman, too, finishing 19th in Division 1 at the Ridges last year, covering the five kilometers in 19:37, but has dealt with growth-plate related injuries ever since.
“I think I am feeling ready to run,” McMeekin said. “I have been staying pretty healthy this season and of course, I am nervous, but I am excited as well to be back at state.”
In Division 2, the Northwestern boys have qualified for the state meet for the third straight year, including captains Mark Jarman, Emmett Johnson and Ian Kalin. It will be senior Peter Kephart’s and sophomore Morgan Martens' second trip, while freshman phenom Hunter Fredrickson has had a big impact.
Meanwhile, among girls competitors, Northwestern junior Jenna Hursh qualified individually after finishing fourth at the Rice Lake Sectional in 20:04.9.
“She’s just an incredible talent,” Tigers coach Phil McGrath said. “Very coachable. She put in a ton of miles over the summer.”
In Division 3, Solon Springs/Northwood qualified its boys team for the third time in program history, and it took a bit of an upset at the Phillips Sectional last weekend as Phillips won a tight team race with 69 points, SSN was second with 73 and Grantsburg third with 78.
The Wisconsin cross country coaches’ poll had Phillips ranked fourth and Grantsburg 10th going into the race.
Ladysmith sophomore Gavin Stewart won the boys individual race in 16:55.9, with SSN junior Dylan Taggart second in 17:17.6 and sophomore teammate Isaac Dickenson fourth in 17:42.1.
“Just really proud and excited for the boys,” said coach Dale Rajala. “They are the hardest working team I’ve ever coached. They came into the season with some big goals and so far, most of them have been met.”