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NLS, LQPV/DB ready for Class A state races

New London-Spicer boys cross country team hasn't been to the state meet since before all of their runners were born but you wouldn't know it from talking to their head coach.

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New London-Spicer boys cross country team hasn't been to the state meet since before all of their runners were born but you wouldn't know it from talking to their head coach.

Mark Thompson and the Wildcats took second at the Section 6A meet on Oct. 27 to earn the team's first trip back to state since 1995 but he said it's business as usual.

"We tried to keep things low-key going into sections," Thompson said. "We knew we were going to qualify for state. There were no gimmicks, no 'I'll shave my head if we make state,' just run."

The Wildcats qualified in a similar way as their whole season has gone, needing a full team performance to succeed. Unlike many of their state competitors, NLS has had to rely on getting quality points from all seven runners.

For that reason, some may expect the Wildcats to struggle at the state meet but Thompson shrugs those thoughts off.

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"Out of 16 teams people probably expect us to be last but we won't place that low," Thompson said. "Our advantage is that all of our guys can run under 18 minutes and other teams have some big spreads."

He's also quick to point out that last year's third place finisher, Annandale, had all five scorers run between 17:20 and 17:46, proving a successful team doesn't necessarily need a star individual.

The team will be lead, as they have all season, by Thompson's son Tristan, followed by Max Maher, the lone senior in the starting seven. Thompson finished in twelfth in the section meet and Maher finished sixteenth.

"Our guys aren't freaked out," Thompson said. "We know we're not supposed to beat these teams so it'll be fun to prove them wrong."

Lac qui Parle Valley/Dawson-Boyd will have two chances to bring home a state championship on Saturday as both its boys and girls teams will compete.

It's the second straight trip for the boys and the fourth for the girls, so LQPV/DB head coach John Shurb said his team should feel some degree of comfort in Northfield.

"They know what it feels like, what the course is like and everything," Shurb said. "It's important that we don't take things for granted, though. We can't ease up."

That's a big theme for Shurb's squads, both of which took second at their section meet. He said it's impossible to just pretend like you're not nervous and tells his teams to embrace it.

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"You're always nervous in a meet like this," Shurb said. "I always tell them 'If you're not a little nervous then I'm a little worried.'"

The boys returned many of their runners from last year's state-qualifying team and they're led by junior Keiser Freetly. This is his third time in the tournament and Shurb said this season was a big step up for Freetly.

"Keiser has been really motivated this year," Shurb said. "He was so close last year to qualifying for the mile-run last year too and he's really improved."

Freetly has seen plenty of success this year including a first place finish at the Benson Invite, which he won by twenty seconds, and a third place finish at the Section 3A meet.

Though the boys are finally healthy again, Shurb said the girls may have the best chance at capturing a state title.

"I like our chances," Shurb said. "We're seeded sixth but I don't think we're that far out."

His squad has every reason to be optimistic, too. The girls have a deep team with a pair of stars in Jordyn Sterud and Sadie Thompson who continually finish in the top-five. Right behind them, though, is freshman Georgia Will and sophomore Isabel Schirm. Will and Schirm have really impressed this year in establishing that second-tier of the team.

Sterud and Thompson finished first and second in the Benson invite with Schirm and Will right behind in fourth and fifth place. It was Thompson's turn at the Section 3A meet, though, as she took third with a time of 19:37.60.

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"To do well at the state meet you have to answer the question of 'how close can your seventh runner be to your first?'" Shurb said. "When I look at the girls I feel really good about sticking together and running a strong race."

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