With only two seniors on the roster, expectations for the Central cross country team may have been tempered by youth this fall.
But the hardworking Raiders made the 2012 season one to remember, with sophomore Alex Wischnack capturing the individual Minnesota River Conference title and qualifying in the state meet along with seventh grader Judy Larson. It was the first time in a decade that a Central runner had run at the state competition.
“It was a really, really good year, and the only direction is up,” said Raiders head coach Mark Lagergren. “I’m excited. We got a couple of kids to the state meet and they ran really well. We hope to just build on that. We don’t lose a lot. We’re going to miss [seniors Kyle Lamberton and Emma Schmidt], there’s no question about that, but we don’t lose anybody from our section team. We’re just going to get bigger, faster and stronger and it will be fun.”
The Central girls took fourth place in the Minnesota River Conference as a team after losing one of their key scorers in April Feist to injury before the conference meet, and the boys took fifth place as a team. Lagergren was hopeful that with another year of growth and training, the same members of those teams could improve on their standing next fall.
“Everyone’s back. We’ll be back at full strength. If we can stay healthy and we can get the miles in next summer, we could be right in the hunt next fall,” he said.
Highlights for the season included the MRC title for Wischnack and the state appearances, but the Central girls also won the meet at Glencoe-Silver Lake this year and nearly all runners posted personal best times at the conference meet — one of the team’s top objectives this season.
“We were really gunning for a good conference and section meet, and I think we had them,” said Lagergren, adding that both the boys and girls teams will be honored with gold academic awards. The top five girls posted a collective GPA of 3.99, and the top five boys had a group GPA of 3.92.
“We have some real quality kids, both academically and athletically. These are the kids you love to work with,” said Lagergren.
The team’s two departing seniors, while not members of the section teams, did put a combined 13 years into the cross country program and were valuable members, according to Lagergren.
“You hate to have seniors leave, but that’s part of the deal,” he said. “They’re very good kids, and were great leaders for us. Kyle and Emma both took the JV kids under their wings and showed them the ropes. It was nice to have those two kids as leaders.”
The Raiders closed out their season with a team banquet on Nov. 20, and a number of individuals were recognized with awards during the evening.
Wischnack, along with Judy Larson and junior Parry Larson, were all-conference winners based on their performance at the MRC Meet this season, and sophomore Abbie Schnabel and freshman Ben Barth were all-conference honorable mention.
Additional team awards voted on by the students were also handed out. For the girls, Parry Larson was named Most Valuable Runner, Judy Larson was Rookie of the Year, Abbie Schnabel earned the Running Raider award for an individual with a great work ethic, and Kayla Engelstad was named Most Improved.
For the boys, Wischnack was named Most Valuable Runner, Kenny Feist was Rookie of the Year, Josh Hendel was the Running Raider and Alex Farrell earned Most Improved status.
“It’s kind of nice to have a young team. We got some experience this year. We got some experience running well at the conference, we got some experience at the section meet,” said Lagergren. “I think we’re just going to get better.”