If the past week was any indication, the Central cross country team is primed for a strong performance at the Minnesota River Conference Meet this Thursday, Oct. 11 at Baylor Park.
The Raiders competed in two meets last week, running at Sleepy Eye on Thursday, Oct. 4 and traveling to Duluth for the Swain Invitational on Saturday, Oct. 6. At both meets, Central runners continued to lower times and show individual improvements.
“It was a really good week,” said Raiders head coach Mark Lagergren. “We ran really well at Sleepy Eye on Thursday. It was windy and it was cold. Saturday in Duluth it was cold too. It wasn’t windy, but it was cold.”
At Sleepy Eye, both the Central boys and girls took second place in the six-team meet. The girls scored 60 points to finish behind only Mankato Loyola (37), and the boys also finished behind Loyola (32) with 54 points.
Central’s girls were led by Judy and Parry Larson, who finished second and third overall with times of 16:27 and 16:33, respectively. Parry Larson lowered her time on the same course by nearly a full minute in comparison to her 2011 score.
Abbie Schnabel also earned a medal for a top 10 finish, taking 10th overall with a time of 17:41. Dana Norman (19:04) and Sarah Korman (19:11) also scored for the Raiders.
In the boys’ race, Alex Wischnack took first place overall (17:43). Ben Barth (18:43) also earned a medal with a sixth place finish, and Chase Heuer (19:28), Cole Sauter (19:37) and Andrew Wischnack (19:44) also scored.
Central continued its strong season on the hills of Duluth, where the girls took 14th place out of 24 complete teams and the boys were 13th out of 25 full teams.
Judy Larson crossed the finish line first for the girls, taking 20th place individually with a time of 16:31. Parry Larson (17:12), Schnabel (17:41), Engelstad (19:46) and Norman (19:51) also scored, and Emma Schmidt rounded out the varsity roster.
On the boys’ side, Alex Wischnack nearly medaled, taking 12th overall with a personal best time of 16:54, over a minute and a half improvement from last season at Duluth. Barth (18:34), Heuer (18:50), Andrew Wischnack (19:15) and Devon Dvorak scored as well, and Alex Kayser and Sauter also ran for the varsity.
Five of the boys posted big improvements over previous years, with Andrew Wischnack finishing almost three minutes faster than last year.
“We had [personal records] on a course that is really hilly,” said Lagergren. “I think Duluth is probably one of the hardest courses out there, except for maybe St. Peter. It’s a hard course. The kids ran well. They’ve really bought in to the program. This is where you want to be heading into conference.”
While Lagergren wasn’t sure what to expect from a very young cross country squad this season (none of the regular scorers are seniors), the continued improvements shown over the course of the season have him curious to see how things shake out in the conference.
“I’m feeling really good about it. The kids are having a good time and are feeling good,” said Lagergren. “We’re going to pull back this week. I want them hungry for Thursday, chomping to race. They’ve raced well the last two meets. We’ll go light on Tuesday and real light on Wednesday. Hopefully Thursday we can cut it loose. It’s always fun to run at home. Hopefully homecoming doesn’t get in the way. We just have to put the blinders on.”
The top 10 individual boys and girls will receive all-conference honors, and Lagergren said it’s likely some of Central’s top runners will reach that plateau this season.
“We have a real good chance to bring home some hardware again,” he said.
Team finishes are harder to predict, but the girls’ squad should be helped by the return of April Feist, who missed the last two meets with an ankle injury.
Lagergren said the Raiders have prepared as well as possible, and simply need to go out and do their best.
“We’re right where we want to be,” he said. “We’ll see who shows up.”