It was a bittersweet Section 8A girls cross country meet for Nevis’ Jade Rypkema and United North Central’s Anjalie Aho.
The sweet part was seeing Rypkema repeat as the section champion and Aho claiming runner-up honors at Bagley’s Twin Pines Golf Course on Oct. 14. The bitter part for those two runners is not having the chance to contend for a state title since there will not be a Class A race this year.
Rypkema was the favorite to win this year’s section title after clocking a winning 5K time of 18:54 last season and entering this year’s race rated No. 2 in the state poll. The Nevis sophomore battled a side ache the entire race, but still led the field with a winning time of 19:15.
Aho was also among the favorites to earn a state berth after placing seventh last season in 20:33. The Menahga eighth grader stuck with Rypkema the entire race, finishing second in 19:22. East Grand Forks’ Lydia Floden was third in 20:06 with the Hawley duo of Lily Olson (fourth in 20:11) and Faith Rustad (fifth in 20:12) following.
“We were pretty confident Jade would repeat. Jade’s biggest weakness in her running is her small frame. About once a month she will get a pretty severe side stitch in training, I haven’t seen it in a race, but I could tell at the mile she was struggling,” said Nevis head coach Tom Stambaugh. “Anjalie made it a much more difficult situation with her fantastic race. I told Jade after she finished that her most difficult races will define her as a competitor. It’s easy to race well when you feel great, but your off days show me where you will go in this sport.”
Rypkema was the state runner-up last season while Aho placed 149th in her state debut. Neither will get a shot to return to race at state this fall as the section meet concluded the season.
“Jade’s future is bright because of her work ethic and her desire to win. I am blessed to coach an athlete like Jade. She’s an amazing athlete, but she’s a better person,” said Stambaugh. “She’s extremely disappointed in not having an opportunity to run against the best runners at a state meet, but that is out of her control. She was lucky to get to compete against Anjalie, who I have no doubt would be on the podium if there was a state meet.”
UNC places 7th
Led by Aho’s runner-up finish, a shorthanded United North Central team finished seventh with 216 points.
Joanna Lehto placed 40th overall in 22:33, Gabby Hrdlicka was 54th in 23:13, Miley Westberg placed 67th in 23:45 and Mattea Smith was 69th in 23:49 to complete UNC’s team score. Also running for the Warriors were Kaylee Westberg (71st in 24:00) and Rachael Smith (113th in 28:12). The Warriors, who placed third last season, ran without Kaarin Lehto, Kate Hendrickson and Hope Shepersky.
Perham led the pack with 56 points to claim the section title for the ninth year in a row. Hawley finished second with 69 points with Lake Park-Audubon (101) and Wadena-Deer Creek (108) following. UNC ran in a four-team pod with East Grand Forks, Warroad and Nevis.
Tigers place 12th
Rypkema helped Nevis finish 12th in the team standings with 287 points in this 22-team meet.
Adeline Bjorklund placed 47th in 22:59, Addison Lindow was 79th in 24:25, Savannah Anderson finished 87th in 24:43 and Molly Lindow took 97th in 25:43 to comprise Nevis’ team score. Grace McNamee (102nd in 26:01) and Amber Gabriel (115th in 29:47) rounded out the Tigers’ squad.
“I was happy with our girls race. We are very young with some of our girls running sections for the first time,” said Stambaugh. “Savannah had a big PR (personal record) to really step up. Her progression over the last two years has been fun to watch. Addison has been a big help running with us while also playing volleyball. Amber also ran her best time ever. She improves every year and her teammates appreciate her effort as one of our captains.”
London runs for PR
Aleka London had an impressive section debut as the only runner for Park Rapids.
London finished 45th overall out of 117 runners in 22:53.
“Aleka ran very well by placing first in her heat out of seven girls total. She jumped out in front right away and commanded that lead through the finish line,” said Park Rapids head coach Patrick Richard. “Assistant coach Tarja Nelsen talked pacing with her. Aleka followed that plan, ran with guts and it certainly paid off for her. It all goes back to her talent and very strong work ethic. We’re so proud of her. She earned that finish.”