Johnson, Miller earn return trips to state meet
Watertown-Mayer may not be sending either its boys’ or girls’ cross country teams to this weekend’s state meet, but the team is once again sending two of its athletes to compete as individuals this weekend at St. Olaf College in Northfield.
For the second year in a row, both Hannah Johnson and Liz Miller have qualified to compete in the Class A meet by virtue of their finishes at last Friday’s Section 5A meet at Pierz Golf Course. Johnson finished in ninth place with a time of 15:43.6, just ahead of Miller, who finished 10th with a time of 15:44.5.
“They ran really well — about as well as they could run,” Watertown-Mayer coach Rich Winter said. “They ran stride for stride the whole way. They could have reached out and touched each other anywhere during the whole race. They really pushed each other on.”
Both Miller and Johnson needed to be in the top 11 in order to make the state meet. The top eight runners that were not on a qualifying team qualified for state.
The trip to the state meet will be the fourth overall for Johnson. She previously qualified in 2008, 2009 and 2011, with her best finish being 21st place last year, earning all-state honors.
“Hannah’s been injured all year and missed the beginning of the season,” Winter said. “She’s slowly improving all the time. She’s still not 100 percent, but she’s considerably better than she was. She’s one of the seniors that’s continued to improve every year.”
Miller finished in 60th place in her fist state meet appearance last year. Winter said she’ll be looking to finish even higher this year.
“Liz struggled a little bit just by being in the big spotlight down at state with all the good runners and the excitement that goes with,” Winter said. “We’re hoping both girls run well this year.”
No members of the Watertown-Mayer boys’ team advanced to the state meet, though Casey Fails once again came agonizingly close. The senior needed to be in the top 16 in order to qualify, but finished in 18th place with a time of 17:29.4.
“Casey Fails just missed the state cutoff for the third year in a row,” Winter said. “Casey has been an awesome leader for both the boys and the girls the last several years.”
The Royals will be saying goodbye to a large senior class as a whole, most of whom saw their careers end at the section meet, which was delayed from Thursday, Oct. 25, to Friday, Oct. 26, because of wet course conditions. Jay Boerner, the second-best finisher for the Watertown-Mayer boys with a 28th-place finish in 17:53.9, also saw his career come to an end, as did Caleb Fails, who finished 50th with a time of 18:24.5. On the girls’ side, Kaila Anderson, who finished with the team’s third-best time of 17:20.4, took 51st place in her final race as well.
“All of them finished with some of their best efforts,” Winter said.
Also for the Watertown-Mayer girls’ team, junior Erin Sonderup-Hohenstein finished in 66th place with a time of 17:39.1. Eighth-grader Kirstin Klitzke finished in 17:57.5, freshman Lydia Fails had a time of 18:37.2 and sophomore Anna Phearman had a time of 19:57.9.
On the boys’ side, sophomore Mike Burns turned in a strong showing with a time of 18:01 and a 34th-place showing. Sophomore Jon Vouk was 74th with a time of 18:53.1, while junior Ethan Thonn finished in 19:46.7 and junior Josh Oak finished in 20:46.3.
As a team, Watertown-Mayer finished in eighth place out of 18 teams on the girls’ side, scoring 208 points. Annandale won the meet with 60 points and Spectrum was second with 85 points. The boys’ title went to St. Cloud Cathedral with just 10 points, while Mora was a distant second with 106 points. Watertown-Mayer took seventh of 21 teams with 205 points.
Miller and Johnson will be running in the Class A girls’ race, which begins at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 3, at St. Olaf College in Northfield.