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Cross-Country: Staples-Motley highlights area teams and athletes headed to state

Class 1A and 2A state cross-country preview

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Aften Robinson.

For the first time, the Minnesota State High School League cross-country season is split into three classes.

This means there will be six races, not four at St. Olaf College in Northfield Saturday, Nov. 6.

Staples-Motley will have both its girls and boys teams running in the Class 1A meet which is scheduled for noon for the boys and 1 p.m. for the girls Saturday.

The Cardinals boys earned the Section 6-1A title behind four top-10 runners in Issiah Tabbat, Lyle Brownell, Logan Robben and Luke Brownell.

“The boys were underdogs in this one and were battling some sickness,” S-M head coach Bruce Fuhrman said of the section meet. “We kind of fell off the map a little bit, but they ran a race according to what we had planned. We scored well and we beat one of the best teams in Class 1A to earn that spot. Going into the state tournament I think our confidence is strong and I like our chances to pull the upset on someone else. Our boys seem to be healthy and I have high expectations for them.”

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The surprise for the S-M boys was Grant Johnson who finished 17th in 18:04.5 which shattered his personal best.

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Issiah Tabbat.

“He really closed the gap,” Fuhrman said. “We ran that way in the first meet of the season and then we started getting sick. So we’ve always been short a guy and haven’t been able to show what we are able to do. We look at our team from last year and our group looked like it did on Friday. So having all the kids run in the low 17s and having Grant at around 18 flat that’s going to be tough to beat for most teams.”

The Cardinals girls finished with three girls in the top five en route to their section title. Kyanna Burton, an All-State runner in 2019, leads the pack for the S-M girls with Aften Robinson and Audrey Brownell not far behind.

Ashley Robben finished 12th in the section race with seventh-grader Bella Hines being the big surprise for Furhman with her 27th-place finish at sections with Sophie Schlosser right behind her in 28th.

“We have a couple of injuries we are nursing along with Bella Hines, but we had to rely on Ashley Robben who ran one of her best races of the season and we have a newcomer in Sophie Schlosser,” Furhman said. “We called her our parachute if anything were to go wrong that would be there and she was. She was sixth for us, but if any of the other girls would’ve dropped out she would’ve sealed the win for us. We are looking like we are seven deep which is exciting going into this meet.”

In 2019, both Cardinals' teams reached state with both teams finishing fifth. The two teams also combined for three All-State runners with Burton being the only returner in 2021. Both teams are ranked fifth in Class 1A heading into the state tournament.

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Also making state from the Section 6-1A race are three Wadena-Deer Creek runners. Bjorn Brunsberg and Lane Hoefs each punched their tickets on the boys’ side with Amber Collins qualifying on the girls’ side.

Pierz notched two state participants with Ethan Kowalczyk and eighth-grader Nathan Tax making it on the boys' side.

Kowalczyk ran the Section 5-1A race in 17:16.0 to be fourth and Tax finished in 17:43.2 to be ninth.

“I liked how they prepared,” Pierz head coach Scott Herold said. “In the sport of cross-country, a lot of how we run is in how you prepare. The weeks leading up to this race the two have really upped the ante and pushed each other as well as the other boys on the team. Our preparation and training led to their success.

“Ethan was able to beat some kids from Cathedral that beat him before in the conference race. It’s one of those mental battles and he’ll get a chance to compete with them at state. For Nathan Tax there was that one point in the race where he made the conscious decision that he needed to finish to punch his way into state and he found something inside him to place well.”

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Calia Chaney.

The Class 2A is set for 2:30 p.m. for the boys and 3:30 p.m for the girls Saturday.

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The Pequot Lakes boys team surprised head coach Jeff Brever by qualifying for the Class 2A state tournament with their runner-up finish in the Section 7-2A race.

Led by sophomore Eli Hall, senior Jesse Clausen, senior Dawson Ackerman and junior Charlie Schiessl — who all finished in the top 20. It was sophomore Shane Crowley’s 37th-place finish which Brever said got the Patriots second and edged out Alexandria for state.

“We knew there was an opportunity,” Pequot Lakes head coach Jeff Brever said. “There were probably seven teams in the mix and no real standout team. We knew we had a chance and laid out a race strategy and if everyone ran where they needed to we thought we had a decent chance. Shane Crowley was our No. 6 runner all year long and he just ran out of his mind. He ran a 40 second personal best on a tough course and that pushed us over the hump.”

Calia Chaney finished third in 18:42.2 to be the only Patriot girl to qualify for state. Chaney was an All-State runner in 2019 and is the seventh-ranked runner in Class 2A.

“She ran a great race at sections,” Brever said. “Our section was loaded. There were three of the top five teams in state in our section along with four top-ranked runners. So she had a lot of competition to go up against. So now that she’s had some experience and been to St. Olaf a few times and seen some top, elite competition. I think the familiarity with the course and running against some top competition I think she will outperform herself this Saturday.”

Little Falls’ Wyatt Baum also qualified for the Class 2A state tournament after he placed eighth in the Section 7-2A race.

“On paper, he was on the border of not making it to state,” Little Falls boys head coach Mattia Hendrickson said. “He was really sick on the day of sections, so he raced with a lot of tenacity and got after it really hard. Going into sections, I didn’t know if it was going to be his day because he was sick. I knew he had it in him and he ran really smart and really hard and he did it.”

It’s Baum's first state tournament appearance.

“I’m hoping he gets a good taste of what it’s like at state,” Hendrickson said. “So he can have some expectations to go back next year. He’s hoping to get in the top half or better, which is a realistic goal.”

CONRAD ENGSTROM may be reached at 218-855-5861 or conrad.engstrom@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/the_rad34.

Class 1A and 2A Cross-Country State Preview

When: Saturday, Nov. 6

Where: St. Olaf College, Northfield

Time: Class 1A boys noon, Class 1A girls 1 p.m., Class 2A boys 2:30 p.m., Class 2A girls 3:30 p.m.

Class 2A Participants: Pequot Lakes boys team (Eli Hall, Jesse Clausen, Dawson Ackerman, Charlie Schiessl, Shane Crowley, Braeden Davis, Steve Maschhoff), Calia Chaney (Pequot Lakes), Wyatt Baum (Little Falls)

Class 1A Participants: Staples-Motley boys team (Issiah Tabbat, Lyle Brownell, Logan Robben, Luke Brownell, Grant Johnson, Dillian Robben, Odin Trif), Staples-Motley girls team (Kyanna Burton, Aften Robinson, Audrey Brownell, Ashley Robben, Bella Hines, Sophie Schlosser, Naila Mikhaeil), Amber Collins (Wadena-Deer Creek), Bjorn Brunsberg (Wadena-Deer Creek), Luke Hoefs (Wadena-Deer Creek), Ethan Kowalczyk (Pierz), Nathan Tax (Pierz)

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