It has been seven years since a Central runner took first place at the Minnesota River Conference cross country meet, and 12 years since a boy has earned the individual championship.
Sophomore Alex Wischnack had Central coach Mark Lagergren checking through his records after finishing first at the MRC competition at Baylor Park on Thursday, Oct. 11.
“We knew that [last year’s individual champion, Kyle Fredrickson of Mayer Lutheran] and [Jordan’s Chris Huss] were going to go out hard,” said Central head coach Mark Lagergren. “They went up the first hill and they were leading. Alex was maybe 10th, he was pretty deep yet. I thought, ‘That’s OK. We know the drill. We know the hill.’ He ran a smart race. He ran the tangents well. He nailed them. I would bet Alex’s second half was faster than his first half. It’s tough to do a negative.”
Lagergren said he wasn’t particularly surprised by Wischnack’s win, since had already run a sub-17 minute race at Duluth the previous week, and Wischnack’s time of 16:35 was eight seconds faster than Fredrickson’s pace at the meet.
Wischnack’s win capped a good day for the Central teams overall. The girls took fourth place with 115 points behind Belle Plaine (46), Watertown-Mayer (73) and Jordan (83). Rounding out the girls’ conference standings were Mayer Lutheran (122), Tri-City United (137), Sibley East (161) and LeSueur-Henderson (170).
“We knew Belle Plaine was going to be tough. I’ll take a fourth any day with our conference,” said Lagergren.
The absence of April Feist to injury meant that the Raiders probably missed out on a third place finish, but almost all the runners on the girls’ team posted personal records on the day, and the team had two all-conference performances from the Larson sisters.
Judy Larson, a seventh-grader, took fifth place overall (15:28), and junior Parry Larson took seventh overall (15:43). Abbie Schnabel was all-conference honorable mention with an 18th place individual finish (16:47). Other scorers for Central included Sarah Korman (18:02) and Dana Norman (18:27), and Kayla Engelstad also ran for the varsity.
The boys’ team also ran to its potential in a fifth place finish, with many individuals setting personal records. The Raiders posted 125 points to finish behind Mayer Lutheran (46), Jordan (62), Watertown-Mayer (93) and Belle Plaine (96). Teams finishing behind Central included LeSueur-Henderson (131), Tri-City United (170) and Sibley East (206).
Wischnack led the team with his 16:35, and Ben Barth (18:02) took home all-conference honorable mention honors after finishing 22nd overall. Chase Heuer (18:34), Alex Kayser (18:48) and Cole Sauter (18:50) also scored, while Devan Dvorak and Andrew Wischnack completed the varsity roster.
As a team, the Raiders set a personal record for the year, and Lagergren said the team accomplished its mission of peaking in time for the conference meet.
“We had PRs across the board, and that’s what you want to do,” he said. “All the kids are working hard. They’ve really bought into the program. I think they were disappointed [in the team finishes] but, my God, their times were phenomenal. They have nothing to shake their heads at. I was pleased. I feel good because we ran well and we don’t graduate many kids before next year.”
The Raiders closed their regular season on Tuesday at Watertown-Mayer, and will compete at Battle Creek Park for sections on Thursday, Oct. 25.
“We have a tough section. Minnehaha Academy and Blake are ranked in the state. We know that, of the 28 teams, we have a ways to go,” said Lagergren. “But Alex has got a shot, and Parry and Judy both have a shot to get to state.”
Central has not had an individual runner qualify for state in a full decade. Catherine Meuleners did it in 2002, but the last boy to make it to state was Noah Radde in 1997.
“Realistically, Alex has a shot. It depends who shows up and runs. You have to stay healthy for two weeks first,” said Lagergren. “Alex is doing the right things, getting good miles and good turnover. And he’s working hard. All the kids are working hard.”