Going into the Section 8A cross country meet at Bagley, Nevis head coach Tom Stambaugh and United North Central head coaches Nick Jasmer and Nicole Oyster were confident of qualifying runners for state.
Nevis returned two runners who qualified for state last season while UNC had a chance to send the entire team to the state Class A meet.
Both coaches will be accompanying runners to state as the two teams combined to qualify four runners during the section meet at the Twins Pines Golf Course on Friday, Oct. 25.
Nevis freshman Jade Rypkema led the 98-runner field while UNC seventh grader Anjalie Aho finished seventh in the girls race to advance while the Nevis duo of junior Jack McNamee and freshman Evan Pohl finished 14th and 15th. respectively, in the boys race to earn state berths.
In the girls race, Rypkema was among the favorites to win the title while Aho was also among the individuals in contention to earn a trip to the state Class A meet.
Rypkema, who was rated as high as No. 6 and entered the section meet rated No. 10 in the state Class A poll, ran away from the field with a winning 5K time of 18:54 to qualify for her third straight state meet. Aho finished as the No. 4 individual qualifier in 20:33 to advance to her first state meet.
“Jade has been rated most of the year, so I knew barring injuries or sickness she would get there,” said Stambaugh. “Her workouts and work ethic have been off the charts. She’s been healthy all year and has put in the work. We don’t race as often as most schools as that will burn young runners out. This was just our fourth race and Jade has gotten stronger every race. She went out smart and ran strong the last two miles.”
“Both Nicole and I had a lot of confidence that Anjalie could do it, but knew she would have to run hard and fast. I walked up to the group at the starting line, gave her a high five and said what I usually say: ‘Run fast girl,’” said Jasmer. “As a seventh grader, she has surpassed what a seventh grader should be dong at her age. But she is such a hard worker and so determined to always do her best. She had big shoes to fill as her sister (Annika), who was our top runner for years, graduated. Anjalie stepped up big time and kept improving every single day and has already become a leader for this girls team. We definitely believed that she could do it.”
Joining those two as state qualifiers were Wadena-Deer Creek’s Kira Sweeney (second in 19:27); Perham’s Liz Birkeland (third in 19:48), Mya Morris (fifth in 20:18), Quincy Anderson (sixth in 20:29) and Kaia Starzl (10th in 20:39); East Grand Forks’ Lydia Floden (fourth in 20:07); Pelican Rapids’ Abby Syverson (eighth in 20:34); Roseau’s Lelia Johnson (ninth in 30:35); Thief River Falls’ Jerzie Finstad (11th in 20:43); Hawley’s Lily Olson (12th in 20:43) and Lily Peterson (13th in 20:45); and Warroad’s Eliana Bleess (14th in 20:54).
Perham won the team title with 41 points while Hawley earned the other state berth in a tiebreaker over UNC after both teams compiled 105 points. The top eight finishers not on the two state qualifying teams earned trips to state.
After being the only Nevis runner to qualify for the state boys meet last season, McNamee was hoping to have at least one teammate join him at state this fall.
The Tigers almost sent three runners to state.
McNamee returned to state by placing 14th overall by covering the 5K course in 17:39 while Pohl followed in 17:41 for 15th place. McNamee was the No. 5 individual qualifier while Pohl was the No. 6 individual qualifier. Senior Michael Gunn just missed joining those two by placing 19th in 17:49.7 as Frazee’s Nathan Johannsen claimed the final individual state berth by placing 18th in 17:49.5.
“Jack and Evan ran very smart races. They have done everything I‘ve asked from them this year,” said Stambaugh. “They needed a quick last 800 to make it as the front was tightly packed. Jack and Evan got in, but Michael missed by .2 of a second. I was so happy for the two, but it was tough seeing Michael come so close.”
Perham’s Brandon O’Hara led the 140-runner field with a winning time of 16:13 while teammate Jakob McCleary followed in 16:21. East Grand Forks’ Tyson Mahar was third in 16:34, Perham’s Bailey Evenson was fourth in 16:34, East Grand Forks’ Cole Nowacki (16:51) and Jonathan Krueger (17:07) finished fifth and sixth, and Perham’s Carson Hespe (17:14) and Chase Belka (17:15) finished seventh and eighth.
Also finishing ahead of the Nevis duo were Thief River Falls’ Jacob Davis (ninth in 17:28), Fisher’s Hayden Reitmeier (10th in 17:31), Wadena-Deer Creek’s Bereket Loer (11th in 17:34), Pelican Rapids’ David Johnston (12th in 17:36) and Perham’s Tesfaye Young (13th in 17:39). Also qualifying for state as individuals were Perham’s Owen Wagner (15th in 17:41) and W-DC’s Lucas Hinojos (17th in 17:45).
Perham repeated as section champs with 22 points while East Grand Forks took second with 98 points.
Rypkema qualified for state in 2017 by placing 12th overall as the No. 7 individual qualifier in 22:23 and moved up to fifth place overall as the No. 3 individual qualifier with a time of 19:42 last fall. Rypkema finished 91st overall in 20:42 in her state debut in 2017 and 26th overall in 19:40 at last year’s state meet. McNamee finished 16th overall as the No. 6 individual qualifier in 17:24 at last year’s section meet and placed 106th in 17:31 in his state debut last fall.
The state Class A meet will be held at St. Olaf College in Northfield on Saturday (Nov. 2) with the girls race starting at 1 p.m. and the boys race following at 2 p.m.
“Our expectations for Anjalie are to go out and run fast and hard, but most importantly to enjoy the experience of her first state cross country meet,” said Jasmer.
“Jack has experience at state. He has an outside chance to be all state (by placing in the top 25). Jack ran phenomenal at sections while not feeling 100%. He needs to run smart and be healthy. Evan is extremely talented and very competitive. His first state meet will be an eye opener. We will send him out easy and have him finish strong,” said Stambaugh. “Jade has a chance to place high at state. She’s ready. She’s had great experiences there and knows what to expect. She’s done the work. Now it’s time to go down and compete to the best of her ability.”