The United North Central girls cross country team couldn’t have finished any closer to qualifying for state.
As expected, Perham ran away with the team title by compiling 41 points on the rain-soaked 5K course at Bagley’s Twin Pines Golf Course on Oct. 25. That finish against the 23-team field marked the Yellowjackets’ eighth straight Section 8A title. Perham entered the section meet rated No. 1 in the state and will be seeking its third straight state title.
The other state berth came down to Hawley and UNC.
Hawley and the Warriors were tied with 105 points after their top five runners crossed the finish line. That meant each team’s No. 6 runner would decide which team would advance to state.
Anjalie Aho led the Warriors by placing seventh overall in 20:33 to earn an individual trip to state. Following the UNC seventh grader were Kaarin Lehto (22nd in 22:01), Gabby Hrdlicka (27th in 22:17), Hope Shepersky (28th in 22:18) and Devon Haverinen (37th in 22:39). Eliminating the runners not competing on full five-member teams, Aho was seventh, Lehto was 20th, Hrdlcika was 23rd, Sheperky was 24th and Haverinen was 31st.
Hawley was led by Lily Olson (12th in 20:43), Lily Peterson (13th in 20:45), Ivy Tickel (15th in 21:05), Kira Thompson (31st in 22:28) and Piper Myran (49th in 23:17). In the team standings, Olson (11th), Peterson (12th), Tickel (14th), Thompson (26th) and Myran (42nd) comprised Hawley’s score.
Mia Tickel followed Myran in 23:18 for 50th place overall (42nd in the team standings) while Mattea Smith was 51st (43rd in the team standings) in 23:22 for UNC as the Nuggets won the tiebreaker by the slimmest of margins. Kate Henrickson rounded out UNC’s team by placing 56th in 23:35.
“It was very devastating,” said UNC coach Nick Jasmer. “As the girls started to finish, I had the live results on my phone and it was a roller coaster of emotions. One moment we are going to state and the next we aren’t. I kept seeing our team name bounce back and forth and when the final runners were coming in, I saw that we were tied with Hawley and knew that I needed to go look at the sixth runner. I looked and my heart sank to my stomach as Hawley had the 42nd runner and we had the 43rd. To be that close and not get in felt awful.”
The Warriors placed fifth with 174 points last season. Only Lehto (31st in 21:14), Hrdlicka (46th in 22:09) and Shepersky (72nd in 23:38) returned from that team.
“Coming into the section meet, I don’t think other teams saw us as a threat, but we were confident that if all of our girls ran their best race that we had a good chance at getting to state as a team,” said Jasmer. “We went out there and competed, but just fell short of our end goal. We are so proud of our girls and will be back stronger and faster next year looking to get to state.”
In the boys meet, United North Central placed 16th for the second year in a row.
Andreas Aho led the Warriors by placing 39th in 18:44. Christian Johnson (54th in 19:09), Sam Jackola (106th in 21:05), Isaac Kyllonen (115th in 21:48) and Wesley Hodge (123rd in 22:26) rounded out UNC’s team score of 402 points. Charlie Hodge (124th in 22:27) and Rashad Lincoln (136th in 26:01) also ran for the Warriors.
Only Aho (47th in 18:40), Johnson (53rd in 18:49) and Jackola (104th in 20:20) returned from the UNC team that compiled 365 points for 16th place last season.
“We were proud of the boys team and how they ran,” said Jasmer. “Coming in we knew the boys were going to have some tough competition to go up against. They ran hard and gave it their all in the final meet. Unfortunately we are not sending a boys team and/or an individual to state this year, but the boys program is building and we look for it to happen in the near future.”
Nevis takes 4th, 8th
Having two individual state qualifiers helped the Nevis boys move up in the section standings.
Last season, the Tigers finished 10th with 241 points. This year, the Tigers compiled 135 points to move up to fourth place behind Perham (who ran away from the 23-team field with 22 points to win the section title for the 14th year in a row), East Grand Forks (98) and Frazee (118). Perham entered the section meet rated No. 1 in the state. The Yellowjackets are seeking to win the state title for the third year in a row and eighth time overall while East Grand Forks will be looking to move up from last year’s sixth-place finish.
Jack McNamee finished 14th in 17:39 and Evan Pohl followed in 15th place in 17:41 as both earned individual trips to state. McNamee was the No. 5 individual qualifier while Pohl was the No. 6 individual qualifier. Michael Gunn just missed qualifying for state by placing 19th in 17:49 as the No. 9 individual. Only the top 8 runners not on the two qualifying teams earned state trips.
George Bjorklund was Nevis’ No. 4 runner by placing 27th overall in 18:17 while Reese Mowell finished 70th in 19:43. Jack Johnson (82nd in 20:04) and Tyler Gunn (114th in 21:44) also ran for the Tigers. Perham’s Brandon O’Hara repeated as the section champ with a time of 16:13.
All seven runners returned from last year’s team. McNamee advanced to state by placing 16th in 17:24 while Michael Gunn (34th in 18:20), Pohl (44th in 18:38), Bjorklund (71st in 19:23), Mowell (85th in 19:42), Johnson (97th in 20:02) and Tyler Gunn (131st in 22:02) also returned to the section meet.
“Our boys have gradually improved the last three years since cross country came back at Nevis,” said Nevis head coach Tom Stambaugh, whose team finished 14th with 387 points two years ago. “We came very close to making it to state this year placing fourth against teams that are so much larger than us. We lose Michael, which will hurt, but we have some young kids that could step up to make next year a special year.”
Led by Jade Rypkema’s winning time of 18:54, the Nevis girls placed eighth as a team with 179 points.
Rypkema coasted to the title, finishing ahead of Wadena-Deer Creek’s Kira Sweeney’s runner-up time of 19:27. Molly Lindow was Nevis’ No. 2 runner by placing 36th in 22:34, Emily Funk finished 47th in 23:08, Paige Schuft was 62nd in 23:55 and Grace McNamee finished 63rd in 23:57. Haylie Mowell (82nd in 26:16) and Sarah Boettcher (97th in 34:37) also ran for the Tigers.
Nevis finished 12th last year with 291 points. Five of those runners returned to compete this year. Rypkema qualified for state by placing fourth in 19:42 while Lindow (65th in 23:04) and Funk (77th in 23:46) returned as the Tigers’ top three runners. Mowell finished 107th in 29:50 and Boettcher was 108th in 30:49 last season.
“As a team I was so proud of our kids,” said Stambaugh. “Jade is our oldest scorer and I was hoping for the girls to place in the top 10. Placing eighth with our age and the type of girls we have I’m very excited for the future. This group can contend for a state spot in two years.”
PR boys place 10th
Park Rapids also moved up in the team standings by placing 10th with 242 points in the boys meet.
Leading the Panthers were Darryl Etter (23rd in 18:01), Sam Warne (35th in 18:37), Kolby Brandt (53rd in 19:09), Skylar Hagen (68th in 19:39) and Owen Wagner (83rd in 20:04). Also running for Park Rapids were Marcus Benson (91st in 20:20) and Kaleb Stearns (99th in 20:44).
The Panthers placed 13th with 329 points last year. Only Hagen (the team’s No. 4 runner who placed 102nd in 20:18), Wagner (the No. 5 runner who finished 105th in 20:21) and Warne (the No. 6 runner who placed 110th in 20:30) returned from last year’s section team.
Park Rapids fielded an incomplete girls team with only two runners competing.
Holly Johnson placed 64th overall in 23:57 while Julia Harmon followed in 24:11 for 66th place.
At last year’s section meet, Harmon was 45th in 22:05 and Johnson finished 51st in 22:25.