Cross Country: Lanesboro/F.C. goes from no team to state meet

The Lanesboro/Fillmore Central girls didn't have to wait for an awards ceremony to celebrate the program's first-ever Section 1A cross country championship.That's what moms are for.

Lanesboro/Fillmore Central freshman Emily Snyder leads a pack of runners in last week's Section 1A meet at Northern Hills Golf Course in Rochester. Snyder finished fourth to help L/FC win the section title and earn its first trip to the state meet.

The Lanesboro/Fillmore Central girls didn't have to wait for an awards ceremony to celebrate the program's first-ever Section 1A cross country championship.

That's what moms are for.

"We have some pretty intense parents and fans," L/FC junior captain Leah Ruen said with a chuckle. "They were recording all the runners as we crossed the finish line. We were pretty nervous, but (the parents) were writing down everyone's finish.

"So we knew about 10 minutes after the race."

That the Burros are headed to Saturday's Class A state meet as a team is no surprise, if you look at their results this season. L/FC has won nine of the 10 meets it has entered, including the Three Rivers Conference meet and the Section 1A meet.


The only meet they didn't win was the prestigious Luther College Invitational in Iowa, a meet that is loaded with strong teams from Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin.

"Three years ago we didn't even have a full team and now we're going to state," junior co-captain Kiera Olson said. "We were a young team, but as we've gotten older we've gotten better."

L/FC is one of 16 teams that will compete in the state meet at 1 p.m. Saturday at St. Olaf College in Northfield. The Class A boys race follows at 2 p.m. The Class AA races are scheduled for 10 a.m. (girls) and 11 a.m. (boys).

Just three years ago, the thought of the Burros competing as a team at state was nonexistent. They weren't able to field a full varsity lineup. That has changed rapidly, however, and it started in 2013 with a youth movement in the program that has led it to where it is today.

L/FC has no seniors on its roster. The seven-runner lineup it used to win the section meet included juniors Ruen and Olson, sophomores Bailey Ruen and Ashley Miner, freshmen Emily Snyder and Maddie Smith, and seventh-grader Kaylee Arndt.

Snyder led the Burros at the section meet. She placed fourth and would have qualified for the state meet as an individual, had the L/FC team not qualified.

"For a few years Fillmore Central wasn't (in a co-op) with us, but they're back for their third year," said L/FC head coach Ellen Cullen, who ran at state for Lanesboro in 1999 and 2001. "We've had some good athletes join the team and the girls are very driven individuals. They really work well together as a team."

That teamwork has been beneficial in a sport that is largely seen as an individual competition. By design, the Burros have become great pack runners. Last week's Section 1A meet is a prime example. Snyder led the team with a fourth-place finish, but L/FC's next four runners finished within 13 spots of one another, between 16th and 29th.


"It's our plan in most races," Olson said of running together, "because it really helps us all go faster and we're all at about the same level. We're competitive with each other, too."

Relatively few girls teams from Lanesboro and Fillmore Central have qualified for state tournaments, though both schools' golf teams have competed at state recently, and the Fillmore Central volleyball team played in the Class A state championship match in 2013.

"We tried really hard last year to get to state," said Ruen, who was a member of the L/FC team that placed third in the section last season. "It was kind of a surprise that we did so well last year, but now we're just really excited to represent our schools at state."

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