For the first time ever, Central High School was represented by both a male and female runner at the state cross country meet this year.
Judy Larson, a seventh grader, and sophomore Alex Wischnack competed at St. Olaf College in Northfield on Saturday, Nov. 3, and both finished in or near the top third of the individuals running in their respective races.
Wischnack finished 45th out of 175 runners in the boys’ race, and Larson took 64th place out of 175 female runners.
“I think it was fun for the kids. I think they had great times,” said Raiders head coach Mark Lagergren. “We thought it would be so cool to be in the top 50. Alex was there, Judy was almost there. I think it was just a great experience. Our goal was to have fun, and they had a great time.”
Wischnack ran first in the boys race at 10 a.m. It was an overcast, calm morning with temperatures in the 40s, and light snow was falling as the gun sounded for the start. Wischnack completed the first leg of the race in the middle of the pack, but began to move up as the pack loosened. He crossed the finish line in 16:55, not quite a personal record, but still a very strong race.
“He ran a really good race. He went out really strong and he ran well,” said Lagergren. “He had a great time. At 45th he’s right there with the big boys.”
Perham won the team race for the boys, and the top individual finisher was Matt Welch, a senior from Proctor, who posted a time of 15:34.
Larson followed in the girls’ race an hour later, and started strong. For some time she actually held steady in 35th place, but some of the state’s top runners caught up in the latter stages of the race and Larson finished in 15:48.
“She was nervous. She’s a 12-year-old, maybe 13, running at a state meet,” said Lagergren.
Esko won the team race for the girls, and the top individual finisher was junior Clare Flanagan, a junior from Blake (14:04).
Lagergren was happy with both performances, particularly since no Central runner had appeared at the state meet for the past 10 years. Larson was the first girl to qualify since Catherine Meuleners in 2002, and Wischnack was the first boy to qualify since Noah Radde in 1997. Wischnack’s state finish was the eighth best in school history.
Lagergren cautioned that while both runners are young and could conceivably appear at the state meet for years to come, no trip to state should ever be taken lightly.
“You never know. You can get hurt. They’re young, things can happen,” he said. “We could get into a different section — if Holy Family comes into our section that changes the makeup. You never take the state meet for granted because you have to get out of sections, and our section is tough.”
Regardless of what the future holds, Lagergren felt that getting two runners to state will only help the Central cross country program next year and beyond.
“This is a huge confidence-builder for both of them. For Alex, winning the conference and beating [Alex Fredrickson of Mayer Lutheran] was huge. And he came back and ran a really good section race. I think he’s really confident and can do well. I think Judy is still learning how to race. I look forward to next year, because if some of these boys can jump on Alex and run with Alex, and these girls are all going to be there, it’s going to be a huge confidence booster for both these guys, but also for the team.
“I hope it just builds the program.”