Cross-Country: Red Wing girls 10th, boys 11th at state meet

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NORTHFIELD – With Red Wing boys and girls at the state cross-country meet together for just the second time in school history, both teams felt the ups and downs of the Class 2A championship Saturday at St. Olaf College.

The unseasonably hot 70-degree weather and a soft course slowed down times across the board for a race that typically runs slow anyways.

“There was the heat. We've gotten used to the cool temperatures. And there's just a lot more hills and stuff than in Owatonna (for the Section 1AA meet),” said Wingers sophomore runner Jasmyn Armstrong. “Just those things and the stress of the race may have gotten us worked up.”

With the girls finishing in 10th place and the boys at 11th, it didn't take away from a day from both squads that last happened in 1998.

“Overall, what a great season,” said Red Wing head coach Jesse Nelson. “I'm so proud that I had to work my butt off and coach two teams here at the state meet. Not a lot of coaches get to do that. It's very rewarding and I'm very proud.”

Girls

For Armstrong and teammate Grace Johnson, the goal was to try and get All-State honors by placing in the top 25. The twosome neared that feat but couldn't get into the top 25 as Johnson finished 31st at 19 minutes, 21.6 seconds while Armstrong was 39th in 19:32.9.

“It was really hard out there, to be completely honest,” Armstrong said. “It was tough trying to stay with Willmar and some of those Edina girls. They have such a close pack and they all run pretty fast. It's my fourth year running (at state) and compared to my second or third year, you go up and down with how you race.”

Nelson added, “Grace and Jasmyn put themselves in position to get into the top 25 and they both slipped out of that by 10-to-15 seconds. It's OK to be disappointed when you set a high goal and you don't achieve it. But still, very proud of the efforts of those two.”

As a team, the Winger girls scored 260 points, thanks to strong pushes at the end from Elise Leise (67th, 20:39.4), Tori Leitner (71st, 20:41.4) and Adelle DeSutter (76th, 20:46.1). Arianna Mollgaard (153rd, 21:22.5) and Grace Dube (154th, 21:22.9) also ran for Red Wing.

“It's really cool It's so good we can be here,” Johnson said. “Especially after losing one of our best runners from last year (Kianna Stewart) and we can still go with the entire team (to state).”

Edina won the girls' team title with 45 points, beating Willmar's 58 and Minnetonka's 105. Farmington's Anna Fenske was the individual champion with a time of 17:41.5, beating teammate Lauren Peterson's second-place time of 18:17.1.

Boys

The Red Wing boys had two main goals they were able to accomplish: Start fast and stay within 40 seconds of each other. Delivering on those bullet points, the Winger boys finished the day with 262 points.

“That was a good showing,” Nelson said of the boys team. “I was worried about us not getting out to a good start, so I'm very proud of the boys getting after it and getting themselves in a position to be competitive.”

With a strong kick down the final stretch of the five-kilometer course, Tom Nemanich was Red Wing's top runner with a 65th-place time of 17:00.9.

“I was starting to feel it a little bit and started to slow down,” Nemanich said, “but I took off in that last 800.”

Bryan Zucker (82nd, 17:10.9), Asa Beckner (100th, 17:18.2) and Jonah Leise (102nd, 17:19.2) had a pack to fight against, but were able to stay close and aid the Wingers' efforts.

“When it's a big meet like this, sometimes you have to be able to elbow or make some space. There was some pushing and shoving but as long as you're able to do it back when you need to if someone's trying to get in your way, you can stick with your teammates.”

Weston Wyatt (120th, 17:30.6) capped off the Wingers' team score while Skyler Bennyhoff (127th, 17:33.0) and Tucker Wallin (139th, 17:41.8) also ran for the team.

“It was good that we were able to stick together even with the huge amount of competition,” Nemanich said. “That's what we're good at and we'll keep doing that to compete with the big schools.”

Nelson added, “The pack was as tight as we needed it. Now we just need to move everyone 15 seconds up and we're in business. The boys were close. If this group puts in the work they've put in so far in their careers, hopefully we get a chance to make the adjustment in the last mile of the state meet and finish higher in the future.”

Wayzata crushed the boys' field with a first-place score of 38, cruising by second-place Edina (91) and third-place Maple Grove (128). Edina's Patrick Roos was the individual winner at 15:36.4, keeping Wayzata's Khalid Hussein (15:41.8) at bay.