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Willmar senior Ryan Voss, foreground, charges into the finishing chute at St. Olaf College Saturday in the Class AA boys meet at Northfield. (Tribune photo by Rand Middleton)

Willmar boys caught in jam; settle for 13th at state

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NORTHFIELD - A strategy productive in conference and section race may not work in the state meet.

Willmar found that out Saturday at the state Class AA Boys Cross Country Meet at St. Olaf College.

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The Cardinals, at best, had hoped to finish ninth in the 16-team field. They left the start line near the back of the 160-runner mass intending to work their way up, but they ended up in 13th place, one place better than their finish a year ago.

"It's crazy out there," said Willmar's C.J. Seifert, who was running in his first state meet. "There are people everywhere. It's hard to get around (other runners)."

That's especially true early in the race when it's like driving on a congested freeway at rush hour.

"It's so hard to find your teammates," said senior Danny Voss, first for Willmar in 79th place. "But the crowd really amps you up."

The sunny 60-degree day, a sharp contrast from a bleak October, brought out one of the biggest crowds seen at the athletic fields below the college.

The Willmar tactic of running a methodical race while steadily improving position worked well in winning the Central Lakes Conference and Section 2AA championships.

"I guess we went out too slow," said senior Matt Weitzel, whose 89th-place finish was an improvement of 62 places over last year. "But I caught a lot of people coming down the hill (nearing the finish chute)."

With three seniors on the team, sophomore Mowlid Mohamed, who was 93rd, and freshman Abdullahi Mohamed, who was 106th, become the leaders next year when Willmar will try for a seventh straight state meet appearance.

Shakopee freshman Maria Hauger, who won the section championship at Willmar on Oct. 29, led the girls 4,000-meter race all the way to win in 14:40. Jamie Piepenburg of Alexandria and Heidi Peterson of Sartell, who were first and second at Eagle Creek on Oct. 22, finished third and fourth.

Class A

The New London-Spicer girls were back in the state meet for the first time since 2002 when the Wildcats won the title for the third year in a row. This time, they were 16th. But the future is bright with only one senior runner in this fall's top seven.

Sophomore Spencer Erickson, 20th as a freshman, led the squad with a 33rd-place finish in 16:02, while freshman Lydia Kieft was 80th in 16:46.

The area's leading individuals in the girls meet were juniors Makena Hofer of Montevideo and Gabi Swoboda of Redwood Valley. They were 21st and 22nd, respectively, to earn All-State recognition.

Freshman Madison Sachs of Minnewaska was ill on Thursday, but felt well enough to race by Saturday. But she clearly struggled to finish 118th after taking 26th a year ago. Freshman Tera Walker of Lac qui Parle Valley/Dawson-Boyd, placed 35th in her fourth state meet. Litchfield ninth-grader Savannah Ramirez, running in her first state meet, took 48th.

Waseca ended the Adrian girl's bid for a fifth straight title.

In the boys Class A 5,000-meter race, senior Stefan Lemke of Morris took 14th in 16:58 to earn All-State honors. Tyler Warren, a Litchfield senior in his first-year of cross-country, came in 37th.

CLASS AA BOYS

Team scoring

(1) Eden Prairie 47 (2) Wayzata 57 (3) Burnsville 113 (4) St. Thomas Academy 139 (5) Stillwater 163 (6) White Bear Lake 208 (7) Moorhead 211 (8) Totino Grace 225 (9) Lakeville North 244 (10) Alexandria 257 (11) Owatonna 272 (12) Andover 284 (13) Willmar 289 (14) Mankato East 330 (14) Mankato East 330 (15) Cambridge-Isanti 340 (16) Forest Lake 379

Individual

TOP FIVE -- (1) Aaron Bartnik, Eden Prairie, 15:55 (2) Marty Joyce, Woodbury, 15:58 (3) Kemal Jarso, St. Paul Central, 16:02.4 (4) Cole O'Brien, Burnsville, 16:02.7 (5) Jake Autio, St. Michael/Albertville, 16:04

WILLMAR -- (79) Danny Voss 17:09 (89) Matt Weitzel 17:14 (93) Mowlid Mohamed 17:18 (102) C.J. Seifert 17:22 (106) Abdullahi Mohamed 17:25 (147) Alex Johannes 18:09 (157) Anders Byberg 18:47

CLASS AA GIRLS

Team scoring

(1) Elk River 120 (2) Prior Lake 123 (3) Eden Prairie 127 (4) Lakeville South 144 (5) Monticello 167 (6) Roseville 173 (7) Totino Grace 176 (8) Shakopee 178 (9) Lakeville North 235 (10) Rosemount 235 (11) Grand Rapids 235 (12) Moorhead 243 (13) Mounds View 268 (14) Minnetonka 282 (15) Chanhassen 360 (16) Woodbury 392

Individual

TOP FIVE -- (1) Maria Hauger, Shakopee, 14:40 (2) Emma Bates, Elk River, 14:41 (3) Jamie Piepenburg, Alexandria, 14:45 (4) Heidi Peterson, Sartell, 14:50 (5) Megan Platner, Eden Prairie, 14:54

CLASS A BOYS

Team scoring

(1) Plainville/Elgin-Millville 100 (2) Perham 102 (3) St. Cloud Cathedral 110 (4) Minnehaha Academy 147 (5) Long Prairie/Grey Eagle 173 (6) Waseca 176 (7) Holy Family Catholic, Victoria 223 (8) Adrian 225 (9) Jackson County Central 240 (10) Eveleth-Gilbert 257 (11) Albany 259 (12) Esko 260 (13) Staples-Motley 268 (14) Fairmont 277 (15) Mora 318 (16) Winona Cotter 338

Individual

TOP FIVE -- (1) Mubarik Musa, Worthington, 16:01 (2) Paul Kouillik, Blake, 16:19 (3) Jake Brown, Minnehaha Academy, 16:26 (4) Aaron Haley, Plainview/EM, 16:28 (5) Mason Ferlic, Mounds Park Academy, 16:30

AREA INDIVIDUALS -- (14) Stefan Lemke, Morris, 16:48 (37) Tyler Warren, Litchfield, 17:20 (65) Taylor Bodin, MACCRAY, 17:39 (103) Roy Reese, Morris, 18:15 (113) Ryan Wermerskirchen, New London-Spicer, 18:27

CLASS A GIRLS

Team scoring

(1) Waseca 81 (2) Perham 92 (3) Mountain Lake/Butterfield-Oden 121 (4) Adrian 154 (5) Park River 190 (6) Fairmont 206 (7) Annandale 218 (8) Esko 219 (9) La Crescent 239 (10) Holy Family Catholic, Victoria (11) St. Cloud Cathedral 253 (12) Albany 256 (13) Blake 258 (14) Rochester Lourdes 297 (15) Cook County/Two Harbors 299 (16) New London-Spicer 313

Individual

TOP FIVE -- (1) Maddie McClellan, Perham, 14:55 (2)Kayla Woltz, Chatfield, 15:02 (3) Clare Flanagan, Blake, 15:17.6 (4) Laurne Friese, Fairmont, 15:21 (5) Courtney Alama, Annandale, 15:25

AREA INDIVIDUALS -- (21) Makena Hofer, Montevideo, 15:51 (22) Gabi Swoboda, Redwood Valley, 15:52 (33) Spencer Erickson, NLS, 16:02 (35) Tera Walker, Lac qui Parle Valley/Dawson-Boyd, 16:05 (48) Savannah Ramirez, Litchfield, 16:16 (53) Erika Schlangen, Paynesville, 16:23 (78) Alaysia Freetly, LQPV/DB, 16:42 (80) Lydia Kieft, NLS, 16:46 (82) Hannah Ehling, Montevideo, 16:47 (118) Madison Sachs, Minnewaska, 17:21

NEW LONDON-SPICER -- (33) Erickson (80) Kieft 16:46 (126) Codie Bennetts, 17:32 (128) Gracie Waugh 17:35 (142) Hillary Brinks 17:56 (158) Jessica Boonstra 19:33 (159) Allison Ruter 19:45

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Rand Middleton
Tribune photographer/videographer. Began working in radio and at weekly newspaper in Munising, Michigan, in 1972. Started parttime at West Central Daily Tribune Sept. 1974. Fulltime news/sports beginning Feb. 1979. Married to Tribune news clerk Donna (Miller) Middleton, formerly of Kerkhoven. 2 grown children. 
(320) 214-4334
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