Cross-Country: Red Wing boys 12th, Armstrong 80th at state
NORTHFIELD, Minn. – The game plan for the Red Wing boys cross-country team was to be patient, to save some gas for the final mile-and-a-half of Saturday’s Class AA state meet at St. Olaf College.
Instead of giving in to the emotion of the day, the Wingers wanted to hang back and strike when many others were going to be running on empty.
Well, the plan was executed, but it turned out that the field was a bit stronger than expected as the Wingers placed 12th with 280 points, far behind Wayzata’s state-title total of 53.
“It caps off a great year,” said Red Wing head coach Jesse Nelson. “I think we wanted to maybe finish a little higher, a couple places higher. But the kids ran, executed the game plan for the most part, they wanted to come out somewhat conservative, somewhat relaxed and run a great last mile-and-a-half. I think they did that, they just maybe ran out of a little bit of real estate and it was tough for them to pick up a couple more guys.”
Aiden Winn led the Wingers with a time of 16 minutes, 33.5 seconds, taking 28th place in the process. George Nemanich came in second for Red Wing with a 49th-place time of 17:04.2. Marcus Warrington (17:10.9) and Darrick Jackson (17:16.6) finished 55th and 65th, respectively. Meyer Buckner was the final Winger that counted, coming in 83rd in a time of 17:31.7. Joe Partington (17:40.5) and Ryan Schnaith (17:54.2) rounded out the state meet roster for Red Wing.
Winn, and most of the rest of the team, came close to personal bests Saturday, all on a course that includes a punishing hill just prior to the final stretch.
“Honestly, it was a ton better than last year,” Winn said. “Last year I decided to go out with the top 20, and I went out about 15 seconds faster than I should have. This year, I was probably 80th at the mile, which was my plan. I went out more conservatively in that first mile, then I caught about 20 people from the first mile to the end. It was a lot better than last year. And I was just glad to have the experience.”
Added Nelson: “They ran great, and I was happy with the effort. The kids did what we asked them to. It went well.”
Jasmyn Armstrong ran in the girls Class AA race, taking 80th in a time of 15:29.7. Armstrong, a seventh-grader, was under the same instruction as the boys.
“It was the same thing for her,” Nelson said, noting the goal of a patient start to the race. “A lot of kids do the opposite: they go out hard and then fizzle at the end. I think if you ask her, she’d probably say, ‘Maybe I should have went out a little harder.’ But she did what we asked of her, and I thought, overall, it was a good experience and she finished strong. A good, hopefully, first state meet experience.”
Said Armstrong, “I think it went really well. I just tried to do what Nelson said, to take it easy and pick it up in the end. I think it went well.”
Despite not finishing as high as they had dreamed, the Wingers, who last had a team at state in 1999, accomplished one task: the program is back on track.
“Hopefully it set the hook for some of our younger runners that, ‘Yeah, I’m going to put the work in that it takes to hopefully get to the state meet,’” Nelson said.
And if the event itself was not enough to make the younger runners understand, the large and loud fan section that followed the boys and Armstrong to Northfield should have underscored how meaningful a state meet can be.
“We definitely could have won a fan award,” Nelson said. “I’m very appreciative of everyone that came over here today.”