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Tribune photo by Rand Middleton Sam Anez, farthest left, leads the Willmar boys off the start line at the Cardinal Invite on Sept. 28 at Eagle Creek.

Willmar notebook: XC makes bid for state today

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Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

The Cardinals are at the Detroit Lakes Country Club this afternoon for the Section 8AA cross country championships (girls 3:30 p.m., boys 4:15 p.m.).

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The top two teams in boys and girls advance to state at St. Olaf on Nov. 2, as well as the top eight individually outside of team qualifiers.

“It’s a very tough course with a couple of big hills and lots of ups and downs,” Cardinals’ coach Jerry Popp said. “It’s the only course we run at that is even close to our home meet at Eagle Creek.”

Willmar will run the same lineup as the CLC meet, but add Chris Muldrow to bring the boys up to seven.

I asked Popp for the outlook.

“In girls, there are three teams ranked in the top 10 — Willmar (6), Bemidji (8), and Monticello (10). Plus, Sartell has gotten votes and has won several large meets. Throw in Alexandria and Brainerd and we are in the deepest girls section in the state.

“Our girls are running very well right now. Sam Hanson should challenge for top-5, behind the Hasz twins (Megan and Bethany) and Bemidji’s Jenna Truedson — each ranks top 4 AA individually. Depth is our strength. Our next four girls — Sophie Schmitz, Jessa Hanson, Kayla Rudie, and Serena Monson — each have top 20 potential, and Savannah Anez has been coming on. But you must respect top 10 teams in the field. We are not taking anything for granted.”

The Willmar girls are rated No. 6 in AA, Bemidji No. 8 and Monticello No. 10.

The boys 5k shapes up as a four-way battle for two spots between state-ranked Bemidji, Alexandria, Moorhead and Willmar.

“Bemidji (rated No. 12) is the favorite but each team in this group has split wins/losses so it really comes down to who has the best team on race day.

“Tom Seifert has won his last four races and only fifth-ranked Sam Carlson of Bemidji is left for him to catch. Nadir Yusuf is also in consideration for top-10. Connor Danielson of Fergus Falls and Wade Krueger of St. Cloud Tech will also contend at the front. Alexandria and Moorhead are deep and talented but minus a true frontrunner.

“Bemidji is like us with a couple kids up front and then attempt to hold on with their other boys. Sometimes the balanced teams have an advantage in a bigger meet. The key for us will be if Tom and Nadir can front run with the above teams, Sam Anez beat those teams’ No. 3, and Ian Thompson and Austin Miley are competitive with their 4s and 5s. It will be a team effort with everyone having a role to play if we are going to prevail.”

Bemidji and Moorhead boys advanced to State last year; Moorhead and Willmar went in girls.

Class A running

Ben Burgett of Community Christian (Willmar) is the top-ranked runner in Section 6A at Long Prairie today. The Eagles’ junior is No. 9 in Class A, one step ahead of Ryan Phillips of Redwood Valley, who will be one of the favorites in Section 3A at Adrian today.

Alaysia Freetly is top-10 ranked in 3A (at No. 7). She leads No. 9-ranked Lac qui Parle Valley/Dawson-Boyd which will compete with No. 8 Luverne and No. 10 Canby/Minneota-Lincoln HI for a team trip to state. Individually, Section 3A girls features No. 2 Kayla Huhnerkoch of Redwood Valley and No. 3 Maddie Schandelmeier of Luverne.

Bison blues

A picture is worth a thousand yards.

The Section 6AAAAA program (combined with Section 5AAAAAA) available at the Hodapp Field gate Tuesday night listed rosters with team photos.

On the page opposite the Cardinals team photo was that of St. Michael-Albertville, two villages a generation ago now booming suburbs. The Knights spread across their stadium seating in Eden Prairie-like numbers, 97 strong in shoulder pads. Willmar, 10-12 grades, counts 60.

The Rogers Royals, who beat STMA in OT last week, have similar numbers. The Royals are a recent creation, carved out of the Elk River district.

While Willmar was losing to No. 6 seed Buffalo 43-20, No. 5 seed Elk River, another 2-6 team coming into the postseason, crushed No. 4 Monticello 69-42. The Elks’ regular-season schedule included six Super 32 foes, among them Eden Prairie.

One factor that figures into Willmar being unable to contain the Bison ground game (59 rushes for 340 yards) is that the visitors’ roster lists 31 seniors. Willmar had 12.

Willmar’s three loses were to teams able to match the Cards’ overall speed. Overall, it was an exciting season with six wins and a tie for first in the CLC South at 4-1, though St. Cloud Apollo gets the trophy, appropriately, based on the head-to-head result.

In an email, I asked coach Jon Konold about the game and the season. He replied: “Yes, we ran into a tough run game. Turned the ball over on our first three possessions that makes it tough on our defense. That aside, many positive things to draw from this year; very good senior leadership. A lot of seniors stepped up and played well this year. For the most part we stayed healthy and kids played hard for us. Very proud of this group.”

Bulldogs bite

Last week when the Bulldogs of Paynesville knocked off Yellow Medicine East to finish 8-0, it was reported that it was the Dogs’ first unbeaten regular season since 1972. Actually, no.

The Dogs ended that regular season 7-1. But in 1979 another Virg Vagle team went undefeated and was crowned Central Gopher Conference champion. They beat Montevideo 15-14 to advance to the four-team state tournament in Class A, the second largest of the then five-stage classifications (AA, A, B, C and 9-man). No. 4 ranked Paynesville faced No. 3 Apple Valley  (yes, Apple Valley) at Cold Spring on Nov. 9, 1979, losing to the Eagles punishing running game 21-0 and finished 10-1.

The Bulldogs (9-0) host Sauk Rapids (5-4) at 7 p.m. Saturday in Section 5AA semifinals.

CLC swim meet

Central Lakes Conference diving prelims are this evening (7 p.m.) at Alexandria, this year’s host. The top 16 advance to Saturday’s swimming and diving finals (noon start) for the last 3 dives.

“Our strongest events will be the relays. Our “A” relays are all in the top 4 and our “B” relays are all in the top 9,” said Willmar coach Carl Shuldes. “That scores a lot of team points as only two relays from each team can score and relays points are double the individual events.”

The 50 and 100 freestyles, as well as the 100 back and breaststroke, will be the team’s best individual events.

Each team can have up to four entries per individual event and three relays. The top 16 places in each event score points. A team can score up to four individuals and 2 relays.

Brainerd and Sartell will battle for first. Brainerd beat Sartell 93.5 to 92.5 in their dual meet. Sartell is ranked No. 2 in Class A. Brainerd went 8-0 in CLC duals, Sartell 7-1 and Willmar 6-2.

“We hope to finish third,” said Shuldes.

Final standings are determined by points bases on dual-meet and CLC meet results.

Warrior hoops

Ridgewater women’s basketball coach Carrie Ogdahl has released her 2013-14 roster. It’s 13 deep, a comforting number since many seasons the program has struggled to have 5-on-5 at practice.

Locally, Anne Dunham and Shantel Kelly are from Willmar, Datri Jensen from Benson, Courtney Kramer and Jessi Kalenberg from Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart, Raeann Sorenson from Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa, Brooke Wuertz and Rachel Ampe from Paynesville and Chelsea Ahl from Renville County West. The team has an alumni scrimmage Nov. 2, time to be announced.

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