Tom Stambaugh has coached several outstanding cross country runners in his time.
The Nevis head coach ranks Jade Rypkema among the best.
Stambaugh believes Rypkema has the talent to become a state champion before she graduates from Nevis. Rypkema showed that potential with a runner-up finish at the state Class A girls cross country meet at St. Olaf College in Northfield on Saturday, Nov. 2.
“Since moving to Nevis I’ve been lucky to work with four athletes (Matt Lundstrom, Isaac Overmeyer, Lydia Lutz and Bryon Schuldt) who had the desire, work ethic and talent to become a state cross country champ. All four ran amazing races (at state), but only one (Schuldt) was a state champ,” said Stambaugh. “Everything has to fall in place on that day. 12,500 high school cross country runners started the season this fall in (Class) A and (Class) AA. At the end there are only four state champions. Jade is a special talent. She wants to be the next Bryon Schuldt of Nevis.”
The Nevis freshman entered her third state meet rated No. 4 in the Class A poll. Rypkema surpassed that ranking by earning all-state honors and contending for the state title.
Rypkema, who ran away with the Section 8A title with a 5K time of 18:54, dropped that time to 18:20 to finish second in the 176-runner state field. Murray County Central junior Morgan Gehl claimed the state title in 17:53 while Luverne sophomore Tenley Nelson was third in 18:27, Mesabi East senior Ava Hill finished fourth in 18:38 and Mayer Lutheran seventh grader Addison Hoof was fifth in 18:46.
Three local runners followed with Staples-Motley eighth grader Kyanna Burton placing sixth in 18:47, Wadena-Deer Creek junior Kira Sweeney finishing seventh in 19:02 and Pequot Lakes eighth grader Calia Chaney placing eighth in 19:02. Gehl (No. 2), Nelson (No. 3), Chaney (No. 5), Hill (No. 6), Burton (No. 7), Hoof (No. 8) and Sweeney (No. 10) were all rated in the state poll. Zumbrota-Mazeppa freshman Natasha Sortland, who entered the state meet rated No. 1, finished 78th in 20:29.
Rypkema was in 11th place at the 1-mile mark, moved up to third place at the 2-mile mark and used a strong finish to move up to second place.
“I knew Jade had a shot at the top 5. Class A had arguably the two best runners in either class this year so Jade ran phenomenal to beat one of them,” said Stambaugh. The only advice I gave Jade was to remember the speed workouts from the last month. We don’t race as often as most programs, but we run some nasty speed workouts. Jade had a few that I knew only a handful of girls in the state could do. The clock doesn’t lie in speed workouts. What you do in practice will show up on race day. Jade definitely proved that. Every kid in our program sees the work she does. Her teammates are probably the least surprised at her finish.”
“I was hoping to finish in the top 10. My strategy was to go out smart and improve on my position. Then, around the mile, to duck behind a group of girls to block the wind,” said Rypkema. “When I finished, I was very surprised and didn’t even believe it was real for a second.”
In her previous two section appearances, Rypkema finished as the No. 7 individual qualifier by placing 12th overall in 22:23 in 2017 and was the No. 3 individual qualifier by placing fifth overall in 19:42 last season. In her two prior state appearances, Rypkema finished 91st overall in 20:42 in 2017 and moved up to 26th place overall in 19:40 last year to just miss all-state honors.
Rypkema will be looking to repeat as the Section 8A champ and contend for the state title again next season.
“Next season I want to break 18 minutes,” said Rypkema. “After that time goal, anything I get is a blessing.”
“I hope Jade can become the next state champion at Nevis. Jade is an amazing athlete, but she is a better person. She loves her school and she will do everything to achieve that,” said Stambaugh. “It does take a little luck and good fortune on that day. I do know there will be ups and downs the next 3 1/2 years, but we will have fun chasing that dream.”
United North Central seventh grader Anjalie Aho finished 149th in her state debut with a time of 21:56. Aho was the No. 4 individual qualifier at the Section 8A meet by placing seventh overall in 20:33.
The other Section 8A finishers at state were Perham’s Liz Birkeland (14th in 19:22), East Grand Forks’ Lydia Floden (15th in 19:28), Perham’s Aspen Rohde (25th in 19:37), Perham’s Mya Morris (34th in 19:50), Perham’s Quincy Anderson (42nd in 19:57), Thief River Falls’ Jerzie Finstad (57th in 20:06), Hawley’s Lily Olson (58th in 20:09), Warroad’s Eliana Bleess (63rd in 20:13), Hawley’s Lily Peterson (71st in 20:18), Perham’s Kaia Starzl (76th in 20:25), Pelican Rapids’ Abby Syverson (84th in 20:31), Hawley’s Ivy Tickel (97th in 20;37), Perham’s Lauryn Rustad (101st in 20:40), Perham’s Abby Tweeton (106th in 20:49), Roseau’s Lelia Johnson (116th in 21:08), Hawley’s Piper Myran (125th in 21:20), Hawley’s Kira Thompson (163rd in 22:35), Hawley’s Mia Tickel (167th in 22:52) and Hawley’s Dru Dauner (172nd in 23:30).
Section 8A champion Perham compiled 103 points to capture the state title for the third year in a row and the fourth time overall. Luverne was second with 138 points, Howard Lake-Waverly was third with 154 points, Murray County Central finished fourth with 165 points and Staples-Motley finished fifth with 171 points. Pequot Lakes was eighth with 197 points and Section 8A runner-up Hawley finished 13th with 279 ponts. Perham entered the state meet rated No. 1 in the state while Staples-Motley (No. 2), Murray County Central (No. 3), Luverne (No. 4), Howard Lake-Waverly (No. 5), Lake City (No. 6) and Pequot Lakes (No. 7) followed.