In what is believed to be a first in 38 years, Anoka girls’ cross country team claimed its first section team title on its home 4,000-meter course on the Anoka High School campus Thursday afternoon.
The Tornadoes held off a determined Totino-Grace team by 19 points and were 35 points clear of third-place Coon Rapids to secure the Section 5AA team title placing four runners among the top 26.
Led by seniors Lexi Fritz (10th in 15:16.8) and Lindsey Gast (15th in 15:34.9), the Tornadoes used impressive races by four underclassmen in their first section varsity meet to move on to the Class AA state meet in Northfield Nov. 2.
Those four younger runners include ninth graders Maria Kalkman (17th in 15:36.0) and Isabelle Brezinka (22nd in 15:41.4) along with eighth graders Sydney Paulson (26th in 15:47.6) and Noelle Josephson (73rd in 16:40.6).
This wasn’t the first win by the Tornadoes, who won the season opener at St. Michael-Albertville and tied for last week’s Northwest Suburban Conference championship at Elk River with Coon Rapids.
The Cardinals won on a sixth-runner tie-breaker but the conference declares co-champions in regular season competitions.
Tornadoes coach Pete Tremaine said having five runners under 15:45 was key to reach state.
“I thought we had prepared well as a team and if the girls ran to their capabilities, we had a shot to be in the top three teams,” he said.
Another key point was to shrink the gap between the younger runners and the two seniors.
“Lexi and Lindsey are the key,” Tremaine said. “They are the glue. Oftentimes when you have a big disparity in age, it’s hard as a team to gel.
“The seniors have been a key to our success. They have involved all of the younger girls in numerous activities throughout the season and they have really become a very tight-knit group.”
Leading up to sections, Tremaine gave the team enough time to figure out what worked and didn’t in terms of cold weather gear and most wore sleeves and shorts. “They did a great job at that as well,” he said.
St. Michael-Albertville junior Rachel King won the race in 14:18.6 and ninth-grade teammate Lizzy Heil was second in 14:26.6.
Totino-Grace sophomores Michaela Brands and Marguerite Louiselle placed third and fourth in 14:40.9 and 14:48.6, respectively.
Coon Rapids ninth-grader Bryna Delcastillo and junior Elise Weimholt qualified for the state tournament with top 11 finishes.
Delcastillo placed seventh in 15:09.9 and Weimholt was 11th in 15:25.5.
Cardinals freshmen Rachel Davis (24th in 15:45.9) and Michelle Onyekaba (36th in 15:55.9) provided key third- and fourth-place team point for Coon Rapids to finish ahead of Mounds View and St. Michael-Albertville, who tied for fourth place.
Spring Lake Park sophomore Erin Guse continued her first varsity season by placing sixth in 14:58.1 to also qualify for the state meet.
The Panthers placed 13th with 324 points helped by the sophomore Gabby Fey’s 35th-place finish in 15:55.3.
Blaine was 14th in the 16-team field led by seventh-grader Sarah Olson’s 28th-place finish in 15:48.8 in her first section varsity race. Senior Emma Cherney was 80th, sophomore Samantha Rotering was 82nd and ninth grader Kirstie Ziegler was 85th.
Centennial edged Mounds View by seven points for the boys’ team title, while Maple Grove settled for third place, 25 points behind the Mustangs on the 5,000 meter course at Anoka.
St. Michael-Abertville junior Chase Cayo won the race in 15:46.7 or nearly 12 seconds ahead of Rogers senior Reed Parent in second place.
Coon Rapids senior Jackson Bednar was sixth in 16:12.0 to lead area runners and will be the lone representative of the area at the state meet.
The Cardinals placed eighth with 199 points, 38 points behind seventh-place Osseo. Blaine eighth-grader Ben Olson was 43rd (17:16.9) to lead the 10th-place team. Junior teammate Peter Caron was 48th (17:26.1) and senior Oliver Houghtling was 49th (17:27.0).
Anoka was 13th overall, led by senior Jeff Barstow’s 63rd-place finish in 17:39.2, sophomore Harrison Redepenning was 74th (17:55.3) and senior Brian Kraemer was 78th (18:00.9).
Spring Lake Park ninth-grader George Elsesser was 65th in 17:46.9 to lead the 16th-place Panthers.
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