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Cross Country Running: 14 area runners to compete at state

For the first time since 2009, the Staples-Motley Cardinals boys team is back at the state cross country meet, which kicks off 10 a.m. Saturday at St. Olaf College in Northfield. And, judging by the roster, this could be the start of a sustained ...

Kira Sweeney
Kira Sweeney

 

For the first time since 2009, the Staples-Motley Cardinals boys team is back at the state cross country meet, which kicks off 10 a.m. Saturday at St. Olaf College in Northfield.

And, judging by the roster, this could be the start of a sustained run similar to S-M's run of 13 straight appearances from 1995-2007 that included seven state titles.

The Cardinals are led by freshman Emmet Anderson, who won the Section 6-1A individual title in 16:38.6 to lead S-M to the team title. Anderson was followed by sophomore Hunter Klimek, who finished 10th. Freshman Tanner Robben finished 19th. Junior Ben Bartczak placed 35th and junior Bentley Christensen was 37th.

Sophomore Jack Tyrrell and junior Brayden Christensen round out the Cardinals' roster.

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"A couple of them got down to the state meet last year and got to see it, but a lot of these kids have not been there before, but I guess I would describe them as pretty hungry to win something," said S-M head coach Bruce Fuhrman. "They got a taste of it pretty early in the season. Most of our runners are pretty young. It's kind of fun having guys that really don't know what to expect. When you take them to a meet, it's pretty fun to watch that emotion, especially after they win something."

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State cross country

  • When: Class 2A girls 10 a.m.; Class 2A boys 11 a.m.; Class 1A girls 1 p.m.; Class 1A boys 2 p.m., Saturday
  • Where: St. Olaf College, Northfield
  • Class 2A girls: Brainerd's Lily Schaeffer
  • Class 1A girls: Staples-Motley's Kira Sweeney, Ashley Robben, Addison Lorber
  • Class 1A boys: Pequot Lakes' Reid Pierzinski, Pierz's Jake Andres, Staples-Motley's Emmet Anderson, Hunter Klimek, Tanner Robben, Ben Bartczak, Bentley Christensen, Jack Tyrrell, Brayden Christensen, Wadena-Deer Creek's Bereket Loer

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Last season, Anderson finished 52nd at state with a 17:09.1. Anderson will enter this year's state meet as the fifth-ranked Class 1A runner.

"Emmet's goal should be to get in the top 10 in the state," Fuhrman said. "His times have shown he'll be there. He got a lot of experience last year and he knows how fast it really is. He's just gotten faster and faster as the year has gone on. As a freshman, I don't think he's intimidated by anybody."

Fuhrman did not have his runners taper for sections. The veteran coach gambled on his athletes and it may have paid off as the team started its taper Monday.

"These kids are in such good shape that this might be the best thing for them," Fuhrman said.

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Also returning to the state meet is Pequot's Reid Pierzinski. The senior finished 26th last season in 16:47.0. Pierzinski placed seventh in the snowy Section 8-1A meet with a 18:25.6. Wadena-Deer Creek's Bereket Loer is the first Wolverine boy to advance to state since Cory Asfeld in 2006 and 2007. Loer placed 12th in the Section 8-1A meet.

The final returning boy is Pierz's Jack Andres, who finished fourth in the Section 6-1A meet with a time of 17:17.1. As a sophomore last season, Andres finished 74th at state in 17:25.2.

The title of top returner belongs to S-M's Kira Sweeney. The freshman finished seventh last year in 19:24.3. She posted a first-place time of 19:46.2 in the Section 6-1A meet.

Sweeney's and Fuhrman's goal was for her to break the 19-minute mark. St. Olaf might be the place to do it.

"We told both Emmet and Kira that their job was to win the section if we had a chance of winning anything. As the team goes, they had to win the race," Fuhrman said. "They knew that was their role and they took off like they were going to win. Both were challenged 'til about the third mile and then they broke free from the group. They both had a nice surge on a downhill and both built a 50-meter lead and held it."

Fuhrman said Sweeney will look for another top 10 finish. The two know they have some stiff competition with the likes of Grace and Lauren Ping of Winona Cotter and Tierney Wolfgram of Math and Science Academy.

Sweeney won't be alone. Eighth-grader Addison Lorber finished eighth in the section meet, while seventh-grader Ashley Robben was ninth. It will be the first state meet for both.

"They've been running right up there with Kira for most of the second half of the season," Fuhrman said. "They've been down there before to watch. I know they'll be a little jittery to run, but it will be fun to see what happens.

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"Kira is looking at another top 10 finish and for the other girls, I'd like to see them get into all-state territory. I believe that's top 25. They have a chance."

Lily Schaeffer is the lone Class 2A runner to advance this season. As a seventh-grader last season, the Brainerd Warrior finished 89th with a 20:19.6 to help the Brainerd girls finish seventh as a team.

A return trip looked like a possibility for the girls, but Brainerd landed in eighth in a tough Section 8-2A meet.

Schaeffer finished ninth individually with a 20:38.2 to qualify individually this season.

"There's going to be about 150 kids there so if she can finish in the top third that would be very good," said Warrior head coach Dave Herath. "Fifty or higher would be a great race.

"She's a pretty smart runner. She has pace down and the state meet can be one of those races where if you get decent conditions people tend to go crazy that first mile and pay for it too much at the end. For Lily, it will be going out aggressively, but also smart at the same time and build into the race."

Covering the Brainerd lakes area sports scene for the past 23 years.
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