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Goodhue's Madison Schafer runs along the gravel path during Tuesday's Lake City Invitational. Schafer placed 61st in the event for a Goodhue squad that has a cross country team for the first time in more than 30 years. (Republican Eagle photo by Kyle Stevens)
Goodhue's Madison Schafer runs along the gravel path during Tuesday's Lake City Invitational. Schafer placed 61st in the event for a Goodhue squad that has a cross country team for the first time in more than 30 years. (Republican Eagle photo by Kyle Stevens)

Cross Country: Goodhue stays the course, Lake City takes top five spots

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sports Red Wing, 55066

Red Wing Minnesota 2760 North Service Drive / P.O. Box 15 55066

LAKE CITY -- For the first time since disco reigned supreme on the American music scene, Goodhue High School has its school colors on display at a cross-country meet.

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Halfway through their first season in more than 30 years, the Wildcats are in the midst of resurrecting a program that didn’t even know it would exist until August. On Tuesday, Goodhue lined up at the Lake City Invitational, where the girls would finish 11th of 12 teams. The boys were missing a few runners, so the varsity took a day off as the JV ran around Hok-Si-La Park.

Yet, the results are almost secondary to actually being able to compete.

“We’ve always talked about it, ‘What if we had cross country? That would be so amazing.’ But when it finally came to the realization that it was starting, it was quite a rush,” said junior Madison Schafer.

Schafer placed 61st with a 4-kilometer run of 18 minutes, 54.61 seconds. Cassandra Voth finished a bit ahead of Schafer at 17:51.90, a time that placed her 44th, the highest of and Wildcat.

Whereas most athletes coming into a fall sport have had weeks, even months of practice, this Goodhue squad did very little running in the summer. The school had been searching for a coach since winter, and it wasn’t until August that Mark Opsahl agreed to take on the task of laying the foundation of a program.

“It’s been enlightening,” Opsahl said while watching the boys varsity race. “(It’s been) a little bit challenging because, not being a cross-country runner, I’ve really leaned on Jesse Nelson, the Red Wing cross country coach, and I give him a lot of kudos for his program. He’s just a plethora of knowledge. So picking his brain jump-started me to ask, ‘What does a program look like? What does practice look like?’

“From there, I kind of had some idea of what I wanted to do as far as team building. But the strategy building, I’ve leaned on some different people.”

Opsahl said he recently held a captains’ meeting to set some goals for the halfway point of the season. And while it remains to be seen if the unrevealed goals will be achieved, the first-year coach said the team is having fun and learning together.

“I think we have some good junior leadership (among) the girls, and some good senior captainship with the boys. They’re kind of meshing,” Opsahl said. “When you put the boys and the girls together, I’ve never coached that way. I’ve always been a basketball coach or a baseball coach. It’s a unique atmosphere when you get them all together. Everyone’s rallying the troops.

“The kids have been wonderful. I feed my energy off the kids.”

For the program to find the kind of success other Goodhue sports have achieved, the roster will have to grow beyond the 23-combined boys and girls it has now. Opsahl said he’s aiming for 30 runners next year.

And the easiest way to convince a high school student to try and stick with anything is to make it fun. Opsahl does that at least once a week with “Friday Fun Day.”

And it’s working.

“It’s been a great time. It’s one of the best team bonding sports there is,” Schafer said. “Whether you’re first or you’re last, you’re cheering for everyone. Everyone is so supportive. And it’s not all about team, there’s (an) individual (aspect), too.

“For me, it’s a mental sport versus just physical, (and that) means so much. I like to work hard and keep my mental strength up, and being able to have it be a mental sport versus just physically being able to do it, I love it.”

Carl Kozlowski led the Lake City boys cross country team to a fourth-place finish Tuesday at the Tigers home invitational at Hok-Si-La Community Park. Kozlowski placed eighth with a time of 16 minutes, 53.39 seconds.

Cole Willers took 27th for the Tigers, completing the 5-kilometer course in 17:57.75. Colin Fritz placed 30th (18:05.27) and Shane Siewert came in 34th (18:19.84).

Ephraim Bird of Minnehaha Academy blew away the field with a time of 15:45.11, which was 15 seconds ahead of second place, and nearly a full minute ahead of the rest of the field. The Tigers’ 115 points were well back of the Redhawks’ 34, which was tops among teams.

Liv Kozlowski led the Lake City girls with an eighth-place finish with a time of 15:58.37. Sidney Renelt (16:08.98) was 11th, followed by Morgan Dammann’s 15th-place showing of 16:20.39.

The Tigers placed third as a team with 79 points. Madison Overby of Austin won the girls race with a time of 15:25.52. The Packers won the team competition as well with 41 points.

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