A pair of Central cross country runners made school history at the section meet at Battle Creek Park in Maplewood last Thursday, Oct. 25.
For the first time, a member of the boys’ team and girls’ team will represent the school at the state cross country meet in the same year.
Sophomore Alex Wischnack, who was the individual Minnesota River Conference champion earlier this year, qualified for the state meet for the boys, along with seventh grader Judy Larson for the girls.
It has been a decade since a Central runner qualified for state. Catherine Meuleners made it to the state meet in 2002, and the last boy to qualify for state was Noah Radde in 1996.
“It’s been a while. Hopefully the drought is done for a while,” said Raiders head coach Mark Lagergren. “We’ve had some good runners, but our section is pretty good. We finally got a couple kids to advance.”
At the section meet the top two teams and the top eight individuals who are not members of those teams qualify for state. Wischnack finished 10th overall with a time of 17:03, but was fifth after the winning team individuals were factored out.
“Alex started out slow. That’s how he tends to run anyway. I thought, ‘You can’t get too far deep in this pack.’ The second lap he came around,” said Lagergren. “He ran a smart race. They both did a really nice job, and get to go to the state meet as a sophomore and a 7th grader.”
Larson finished 12th overall with a time of 15:43, and was seventh after the winning team members were taken out of consideration.
“Judy ran a really, really good race. She started out really strong,” said Lagergren. “I told her, ‘You’ve got to get out there, kid, because they’re going to go for it. They’re not going to jog this thing.’ So she went out really strong and she held her spot.”
Conditions were far from ideal for the race, but many of the Central athletes still improved on their section times from last season. Falling snow stopped before the race, but the course was wet and a strong wind was blowing.
“It was pretty raw, but the kids ran well,” said Lagergren. “We just had a really, really good day. The weather was not conducive, but you know what? That’s OK. They all had to run in it. We had PRs across the board. Every kid who ran there last year had a better time this year.”
In the girls’ race, the Raiders took ninth place out of 15 teams with 225 points. Blake (65) and Minnehaha Academy (84) were the top two teams and will compete at state.
“We have a tough section, no question about that. We have a really, really tough section,” said Lagergren.
Finishing behind Larson and scoring on the Central team were Parry Larson (16:10), April Feist (17:21), Abbie Schnabel (17:29) and Sarah Korman (18:30). Dana Norman and Kayla Engelstad also competed at the meet.
It was Feist’s first race back after missing a number of meets, including the conference meet, with an ankle injury, and Lagergren was happy with her performance.
“It wasn’t a PR for her, but she was all smiles at the end,” he said. “She ran a really good race considering she had a good two weeks of not running much, just doing the pool workouts and physical therapy.”
The Raider boys took 10th place out of 17 teams with 272 points. The winning teams were Minnehaha Academy (43) and Blake (64).
Aside from Wischnack, Raiders who scored included Ben Barth (18:47), Chase Heuer (19:18), Devon Dvorak (19:28) and Andrew Wischnack (19:28). Also running were Alex Kayser and Cole Sauter.
“We ran really, really well. We showed up, so I was really pleased,” said Lagergren. “I think we had a really decent year. I think a lot of the kids are sad that it’s done. It was their last meet, and they finished strong. We’re excited for next year already.”
• The State Cross Country Meet will take place this Saturday, Nov. 3 at St. Olaf College in Northfield. Wischnack will run at 10 a.m. and Judy Larson will run at the same location at 11 a.m.