UNC runners facing different challenges
Girls return veteran team, boys looking for new runners to step up
After last year’s Section 8A meet, Nick Jasmer thought the United North Central cross-country program had a bright future.
With only one senior on both the boys and girls teams, Jasmer was looking forward to a veteran group of runners returning this season. Despite having four of those runners deciding not to compete in cross country this fall, Jasmer is still optimistic that the Warriors have the potential to produce successful seasons.
UNC returns a solid girls team with seven runners back with section experience. Senior Maddie Bullock, junior Lora Isaacson, and sophomores Gabby Hrdlicka, Kaarin Lehto and Hope Shepersky return after helping lead the Warriors to fifth place at last year’s section meet with 174 points. Lehto (31st), Hrdlicka (46th), Shepersky (72nd), Isaacson (73rd) and Bullock (102nd) rounded out UNC’s section team last season. Those five also ran on UNC’s team that repeated as Park Region Conference champions.
Junior Kate Hendrickson and sophomore Molly Hendrickson are back after missing last season with injuries. Both Hendricksons joined Lehto and Hrdlicka on the 2017 team that was the conference champ and section runner-up to qualify for the state Class A meet.
The girls have one key spot to fill with the graduation of Annika Aho, who qualified for four straight state Class A meets. Looking to help fill that void will be senior Deven Haverinen, sophomore Rachael Smith and seventh grader Anjalie Aho.
On the boys side, only three runners return from last year’s section team. Juniors Andreas Aho and Sam Jackola and sophomore Christian Johnson will be counted on to lead the Warriors this fall. Aho was the Warriors’ top runner after placing 47th overall, Johnson was UNC’s No. 2 runner by placing 53rd while Jackola was the team’s No. 5 runner by placing 104th as the Warriors compiled 365 points to finish 16th at the section meet. All three also helped the Warriors place third at the conference meet.
Looking to fill the other varsity spots for the boys are senior Ethan Simon, juniors Charlie Hodge and Rashad Lincoln, and Isaac Kyllonen.
“We basically have three main goals we would like to accomplish year after year. These are to be competitive at every meet, win conference for both boys and girls, and the biggest goal is sending both teams and/or individuals to state,” said Jasmer. “We are going to go out there and be competitive. The section is tough and has a lot of talented and hard-working runners. We will be able to match up against the other teams, but we will have to go out there and give it our all.”