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UNC cross-country teams on right course

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sports Park Rapids, 56470

Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

Steve Schreiber likes the direction the United North Central boys and girls cross country teams are heading.

The girls feature a strong team with six runners returning from the Section 8A unit that finished seventh with 175 points.

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The boys continue their rebuilding process with four runners back from last year's team that finished 13th at the section meet with 326 points.

"The boys are in more of a rebuilding mode than the girls right now, but we're moving in the right direction," said Schreiber. "The nice thing about an individual sport like cross country is the amount of work put in usually correlates to the amount of success the individual athlete will have. We have some hard working athletes in both the boys and girls teams this year."

Girls look to contend

With six veteran runners back and four other runners competing for varsity spots, Schreiber is counting on the UNC girls team to move up in the section standings.

Senior Emily Keranen; juniors Jill Isaacson, Joy Haataja and Madi Lausten; sophomore Andrea Korvela; and eighth grader Anna Olson helped the Warriors finish seventh at last year's section meet. Olson finished 29th overall and was followed by Haataja (32nd), Isaacson (46th), Korvela (48th), Lausten (57th) and Keranen (60th).

Looking to earn a varsity spot and provide depth will be sophomores Sarah Kuismi and Shelby Pihlaja, freshman Jen Stifter and seventh grader Maria Isaacson. Kuismi ran varsity in some meets last season while the other three are newcomers to the program.

"We didn't graduate anyone and added three really solid varsity runners," said Schreiber. "After the really solid year we had last year, we have high expectations for the girls this year. We scheduled some big meets to get the girls ready for conference and section competition. I truly believe with the work ethic these girls have that we will be right there at our conference meet and we're hoping somewhere around fifth at section. It all depends on the work we put in."

Boys look to improve

Schreiber is counting on the combination of four returning runners and four promising newcomers to help the Warriors move up in the section.

Returning to lead the Warriors this season are senior Jeff Johnson, junior Ryan Johnson, and freshmen Craig Isaacson and Joseph Keranen.

Those four competed at last year's section meet with Ryan Johnson placing 37th overall, Jeff Johnson finishing 84th, Keranen placing 101st and Isaacson taking 112th.

Looking to replace last year's senior duo of Luke Graham (who finished 44th) and Jayde Pickar (who placed 88th) will be junior Don Wurdock, sophomores Calvin Taylor and Cameron Zeigler, and eighth grader Luke Wurdock.

"We are in Year 2 of a major rebuild for the boys," said Schreiber. "We only graduated two boys last year and we are confident that the Wurdock boys will step up to fill their shoes. That leaves us with a solid four, so we will be looking for at least one more of our boys to step up and fill a team for us. The expectation for the boys is to be competitive in the big meets. The key to hitting those expectations really revolve around smart running, meaning we run hard when we're supposed to run hard, run for pace when we're supposed to be working on pace and getting the extra work in outside of practice when I schedule extra running."

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