Coming off of a trip to state last fall and featuring a deep slate of returners, the Andover girls cross country team expected to open the season strong.
Still, the dominance displayed in the team’s first meet was staggering.
With seven of the top nine finishers, Andover ran away with first place at Thursday’s ABC Earlybird Meet in Anoka.
“After an excellent summer of training and the addition of a number of outstanding first-year athletes, we were expecting some good results,” Andover head coach Scott Clark said. “However, we were very pleasantly surprised by the overall performance of the team. As a coaching staff, we could see this week that the team was excited about the opportunity to see where they were at and get that baseline time.”
Junior Alexa Havon claimed the individual title in 20:13.7.
“Alexa was able to repeat as meet champion this year, which is never an easy thing to do,” Clark said. “She ran an extremely smart race and with a great deal of confidence from the start to the finish.”
A pair of Anoka runners followed, then came a string of six Andover runners in places four through nine, including Alyssa Gerth (20:42.1), Michelle Dyrdahl (20:55.8), Julia Nielsen (20:58.2), Elizabeth Donner (21:07.8), Joslin Mumm (21:10.5) and Claire Beckman (21:22.8).
“Michelle, Joslin and Claire are all first-year runners and first meet participants that have now solidified varsity positions for our next meet,” Clark said. “It was very exciting to watch so many experienced and new runners have outstanding races. I think what this says for us is that the team is going to be very exciting this year and that the girls can be very competitive throughout the season.
“The girls are looking to return to the state meet again this year, though nothing is guaranteed, and the depth that they displayed today will certainly give them some confidence as they move forward.”
Becker, Krone lead Anoka
Anoka earned second place as a team, paced by two steady veterans.
Junior Alli Becker took second individually in 20:19.0 and senior Taylor Krone took third in 20:34.0, followed by Sydney Paulson (21:31.2), Delaney Butler (23:25.2) and Madi Rowe (23:47.9).
“Three of my top five girls return from our back-to-back conference championship teams,” Anoka head coach Pete Tremaine said. “The key to team success for the girls in 2017 will be narrowing the time gap between our top three and the next four.”
Coon Rapids finished in third place as a team, led by Abby Ellenbecker in 11th in 21:29.6 and Sarah Eichstadt in 12th in 21:29.7.
“The girls did well, considering our top girl was not able to finish and we were missing some of our middle of the pack depth,” Coon Rapids head coach Denny Green said. “They were third of five and not that far out of second. They are very young, though, and showing signs of really starting to understand what they can do as runners, and it will be fun as we move through the season and see if they can build some energy and move up as a team.”
Blaine finished in fifth place, paced by senior Ellen Mickelson in 10th place in 21:25.1 and eighth-grader Kelsey Huver in 14th place in 21:36.1.
“Ellen Mickelson is our leader for the girls and she had a fantastic first race, running over a minute faster than last year at the same meet,” Blaine head coach Rachel Karel said. “Next, Kelsey Huver is an up and coming eighth-grader who ran second for us. Since it’s Kelsey’s first year of high school cross country, it’s exciting to see her up there.
“The girls ran very well overall, and we were actually missing several girls at Anoka. I’m optimistic that we can move up from last year’s end of season results.”