Willmar boys, LQPV/DB's Nikki Swenson returning to defend state titles at St. Olaf

NORTHFIELD -- Nikki Swenson of Dawson and the Willmar boys team both head back to St. Olaf College for Saturday's state cross-country meet with a No. 1 rating.

NORTHFIELD -- Nikki Swenson of Dawson and the Willmar boys team both head back to St. Olaf College for Saturday's state cross-country meet with a No. 1 rating.

The Cardinals are defending champions in Class AA and a favorite to repeat. Swenson, No. 1 ranked in the Coaches Poll, comes into her final race here with a gold medal (2003) and two silvers (2004, 2005). Everyone looks at the leader of the Lac qui Parle Valley/Dawson-Boyd team as the one to beat.

Class AA boys

This will be the third state meet for three Willmar harriers: Kaafi Adeys was fourth in 2005 (15:45) and 28th in 2004 (16:47); Abdi Awale took sixth last year (16:00) and 18th as a sophomore (16:33). Mo Bedel was 25th in 2005 (16:19) and 47th (17:04) two years ago.

Mustafa Yusuf ran 43rd last year (16:39) while Scott Boros was 114th (18:02) in 2004 as a sophomore.


Adeys, Awale, Bedel, Yusuf and Boros are all seniors. Mahad Hassan, a sophomore, ran third at 2AA section meet when Willmar scored 16 points.

In a Star Tribune article Tuesday, Jeff Lindlief, coach of the No. 2-ranked Eden Prairie team, appeared to concede the title to Willmar: "They're a phenomenal team, but after that, two (or) three teams are probably pretty even."

Awali and Adeys are ranked in the bottom of the top 10 but don't be surprised to see them in the top five at the end.

If Willmar finishes first, it would be the fourth title in a row for Section 2AA.

Class A boys

Montevideo makes it 13th trip and first since 2001. The Thunder Hawks won state at in 1987. Individual qualifiers Tony Klosterboer in sixth place and J.J. Nieuwbeerta in eighth led the Thunder Hawks to first place in the Section 6A meet This will be the first state meet for all seven runners.

Jacob Henderson, a Yellow Medicine East senior, is back for the third time. The Section 6A champion was 94th (17:31) in 2003 and 106th (18:01) in 2005. Ryan Swenson, a LQPV/DB eighth grader finished second in the 6A meet at Wadena and will be appearing in his first state meet, matching his older sisters Nikki and Kelly, who both made their first state trip as eighth graders.

Austin Hinrichs, a MACCRAY senior who was third in 6A, also ran at state as a sophomore (80th, 17:53) and a junior (51st, 17:18).


Advancing out of Section 3A for a second year is the Redwood team, which placed second to No. 3 rated Adrian team. Cardinal seniors Justin Peters (sixth, 16:31) and Anthony Bongard (eighth, 16:34) led Redwood to 10th place at state in 2005.

Casey Lippert, who led Renville County West to third at the section meet, finished 17th (16:40) as a junior at state.

Class A girls

Back in eighth grade, Nikki Swenson ran to 28th place in a time of 16:09 on the St. Olaf athletic fields. The next fall she set a Class A course record as a ninth grader with a time of 14:27. The next year she placed second to Kingsland senior Nicole Calabrese in a time of 14:33, and was second last fall to senior Bria Wetsch of Holy Family Catholic, Victoria. Both undercut Nikki's 2003 course record. Wetsch ran an all-time course record of 13:54 with Swenson coming in at 14:15.

The LQPV/DB team has the top six runners back from the team that finished eighth a year ago.

Individually, 5A champion Linda Keller, a Paynesville sophomore, returns after running 16th last year in 15:27. Senior Emily Davis of Litchfield finished 36th in 15:42 last November.

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