ROCHESTER – Stewartville was the best, followed by Lanesboro/Fillmore Central. Lake City was someplace after that, but where, exactly, is not known. By rankings, Stewartville and LFC were the two best girls cross-country teams in Section 1A. Ranked fourth, Stewartville was a spot ahead of LFC, and at least going into Thursday's state-qualifying meet, a near lock to grab a state berth.
But Lake City, an unranked team not used to being an underdog, would not be denied. The girls not only claimed a spot at next weekend's state meet at St. Olaf College in Northfield, they beat the entire field at Northern Hills Golf Course in Rochester to get there. Lake City totaled 84 points, followed by LFC 90, Stewartville 90 and Dover-Eyota 98.
“To be quite honest, I have a picture I haven't sent to the high school league yet, for the booklet. I didn't take a picture because I thought we might catch one of those teams, but not both,” said Lake City head coach Howie Cook. “I apologized to the girls. We have a dark picture that I'll send in. It was just a total race.”
Stewartville was missing Abby Orvis, which was definitely a blow to the team, which lost a tiebreaker with LFC for the second state berth. But Lake City also came in at less than full strength, with Sidney Renelt on the sideline.
While Stewartville's Kailee Malone placed second overall, McKenna Beltz came in fourth with a time of 20 minutes, 5.6 seconds to lead Lake City. Liv Kozlowski (13th, 20:35.3), Johannah Clementson (15th, 20:47.0), Phebe Nelson (25th, 21:14.5) and Jenna Koplin (27th, 21:15.6) wrapped up a state berth for Lake City by all finishing 27th or better. LFC had five runners 26th or better, but none inside the top 10.
“As I told my assistant coaches, that's where our depth carries us. We have probably 10 solid girls,” Cook said. “We had an integral part that didn't run, and won't be next week. I was so proud of us just stepping up.”
One other area girl will also be running in Northfield as Sophie Epps finished third overall to clinch her spot at state. Epps finished in 19:59.5. Austin Pacelli's Kayla Christopherson was the medalist with a 19:42.9.
Pine Island was led by Josselyn Lindahl (28th, 21:17.5), followed by Jocasta Adelsman (29th, 21:19.6), Alyssa Rauk (53rd, 22:08.2) and Sawyer Brown (94th, 23:51.5). Behind Epps were teammates Kristina Allen (70th, 22:41.8), Amanda Wulf (71st, 22:44.7), Casey Vagts (72nd, 22:45.9) and Brett Hanson (73rd, 22:51.8). Goodhue was paced by Madisen Betcher's 23:28.7, with Abby Jonsgaard (97th, 23:58.6), Emily Benrud (99th, 24:00.9), Madison Bartholome (102nd, 24:08.0) and Cassie Voth (129th, 26:36.2) rounding out the scoring.
The Lake City boys are ranked, coming in at No. 10. Section 1A favorite La Crescent is third, and the Lancers proved why with a 45-point, first-place showing on Thursday. But Lake City also confirmed its spot as the second-best team in the group, taking the runner-up spot and clinching a spot at state with 81 points, well ahead of third-place Plainview-Elgin-Millville's 127. Pine Island slotted in seventh with 235, Cannon Falls was 15th with 383, and Goodhue was 22nd with 631.
La Crescent claimed the two top spots individually with Zack Emery (16:16.5) and Matt Stieger (16:18.3) leading the way to the section championship.
Lake City countered with two top-five finishers in Carl Kozlowski (3rd, 16:25.2) and Mitch Mund (5th, 16:46.0). Hunter Grimm (17th, 17:45.2), Cole Willers (23rd, 18:03.0) and Ben Johnson (33rd, 18:27.1) also scored for Lake City.
“The boys basically did what I thought they would do,” Cook said.
Jack Williams came in ninth for Pine Island with a 17:13.5, followed by Logan Meurer (38th, 18:30.2), Danny Langworthy (55th, 19:04.7), Evan Goplen (65th, 19:13.1) and Tanner Horton (68th, 19:15.3). Williams' time earned an individual spot at the state meet.
Cannon Falls' Mason Grimes came in 44th with an 18:46.7, with scoring coming from teammates James Watson (69th, 19:16.4), Erwin Strelow (73rd, 19:21.7), Cobie Vagts (97th, 20:19.8) and Vince Davisson (100th, 20:32.2).
Goodhue's top runner was Derek Alpers (110th, 20:42.9). Trailing behind Alpers were Aidan Kaiser (124th, 21:34.0), Kelby Heitman (128th, 21:42.0), Trent Heitman (130th, 21:43.2) and Lucas Bortz (139th, 22:39.1).