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H.S. Cross Country | Byron gets over hump, wins Section 1A

By Jason Feldman

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

Byron’s season has come to a painful end the past two seasons.

The Bears’ boys cross country program has gotten stronger each season, yet in 2005 and 2006, Byron finished third in the Section One, Class A meet, missing a trip to the state meet by one place.

Those painfully close finishes served as motivation for a Bears team that is suddenly loaded with veterans.

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Thursday, those veterans turned the agony of the past two seasons into sheer joy.

Three Bears finished in the top 15 at Northern Hills Golf Course in Rochester, leading Byron not only to its first Section 1A championship, but also to its first state meet berth.

"It’s a lot of hard work, very hard work," said Byron coach Charro Coleman, who stood to the side and smiled as his team picked up its section title trophy. "Our seniors, their work ethic is tremendous, and our two freshmen have put in a lot of work, too. They’ve been with the program since they were seventh-graders, and they knew they had to step up this season."

Byron’s three seniors were its top three runners Thursday, as Alex Thornton placed fifth, Thomas Thornton 12th and Ali Khalili 15th. Freshmen Kyle Johnson and Eric Anderson placed 23rd and 24th, respectively, to complete the Bears’ scoring.

The top three teams were separated by just eight points, making Johnson’s and Anderson’s finishes all the more important for Byron, which had 79 points. Lake City finished runner-up with 83 points and Plainview-Elgin-Millville was third with 87 points.

Despite narrowly missing a trip to state, P-E-M will send three individuals. Senior Tom Pesch was the individual runner-up in a time of 16:31.6. That was 13 seconds behind Donny Wasinger of Winona Cotter, who won for the second consecutive season.

P-E-M freshmen Grant Timm (seventh, 17:25.2) and Aaron Haley (10th, 17:33.8) are also state-bound.

"(Pesch’s) biggest quality is that he’s a phenomenal leader," said P-E-M coach Michael Andring, who was named the Section 1A boys coach of the year. "He’s our only senior, and the other kids look up to him quite a bit. He’s like having an assistant coach out on the course.

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"For our freshmen to have him as a role model and leader … hopefully the things he’s taught them will carry over to next year."

Rochester Lourdes won’t return to state as a team, though coach Myron Glass was pleased with the Eagles’ fifth-place finish. Junior Mark Freund qualified for state as an individual, placing eighth in 17:26.9.

"Time wasn’t really a factor for me; it was all about placing today," Freund said. "It will be different not having my teammates (at state), but we had all decided that we were going to go and tailgate, so it’s nice just knowing that I’ll have some people there supporting me."

Other state qualifiers from Section 1A are Jordan Haroldson of United South Central, Seb Kingsbury of Lewiston-Altura/Rushford-Peterson, and Jake Snyder and Indy Liljevall of Lake City.

The state meet is Nov. 3 at St. Olaf College in Northfield.

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