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Red Wing's Aiden Winn (515) pulls ahead of Maple Grove's Ryan Graham near the finish line to take 96th place at the Class 2A championship with a time of 16 minutes, 49.9 seconds.

Cross-Country: Red Wing's Winn finishes 96th

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NORTHFIELD - Although the Class 2A state championship on Saturday was a new experience, running in a big race at St. Olaf College was something Red Wing junior runner Aiden Winn had done before. Earlier this fall, Winn and the rest of the Wingers ran a race in Northfield, just like they have done in seasons past.

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"That race had about 700 guys, so I'm used to it being crammed and used to it being good competition," Winn said.

But racing in his first state championship meet, Winn got off to too quick of a start and got exhausted later in the race, finishing in 96th place with a time of 16 minutes, 49.9 seconds.

Hoping to finish in the top 25 to gain an All-State nod, Winn tried to stay with the front pack for as long as he could, coming out of the chutes with a fast start.

"I thought the first mile he was in a good spot," said Wingers head coach Jesse Nelson. "When I saw him about 1,000 meters later, you could tell he was struggling a little bit. And then, you could kind of tell he didn't feel very good."

In trying to keep up with some of the state's best runners, Winn stopped running his race and fell out of his comfort zone, forcing him to drop down into the middle of the field.

"I think that the nerves got to a lot of the guys in the top 25, which was the group I tried to stick with, and a lot of them went out way fast," Winn said. "They were all sprinting ... I'm used to the course and I love the course, but with this competition, I wasn't prepared for that, I guess."

Winning the individual title was Stillwater senior Wayde Hall, who ran the 5,000-meter course in 15:21.0. Taking the final All-State spot in 25th place was Minneapolis Southwest's Sam Sinkler, who finished at 16:06.9.

"When you know you have to keep up with a certain guy or a certain pack of people and they're going out at a pace that you know is too fast for you, it does affect you mentally," Winn said. "It kind of messes you up a little bit.

"Usually, you can get through that adversity and push through it. But (Saturday), it just wasn't my day for that."

Nelson admitted it felt off to see his top boys runner fall back after the fast start, but he was quick to credit Winn for his ability to close out the championship race.

"I think he put it back together at the end a little bit and finished strong," Nelson said. "It was probably not where we were looking at coming in time-wise, but he finished his season at the state meet, which is an accomplishment all in itself.

"He'll learn from this and get himself back here next year," Nelson added.

After his first state experience, Winn was anxious to get back next season. And his hope is next fall, he doesn't come alone.

"Next year, we're hoping to get the whole team back here so that it can be a whole different thing," Winn said. "Running with the team instead of running just by myself, I'll be ready for the competition."

Winn added, "I'm really thankful to get to the state meet. That was my goal all year, so I can't really be mad with how I did here (Saturday). I made it, that was my goal, and I'm very thankful for that."

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Joe Brown
Joe Brown is the sports editor for the Red Wing Republican Eagle. Previously, he worked at the Marshall Independent and the St. Cloud Times. For updates on local sports, follow Joe on Twitter at @RE_JBrown.
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