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Girls state cross country notebook: All-state performances from Yotter and Majerus places Lake City fifth

The eighth-grader Yotter and the senior Majerus shouldered the load, turning in impressive performances to cap off a solid day for the Tigers. Overall, it was good day for the area.

State cross country
Lake City eighth-grader Olivia Yotter reacts after crossing the finish line of the Class A state cross country meet on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022 at St. Olaf's College in Northfield.
Alex VandenHouten / Post Bulletin
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NORTHFIELD — Many times over the course of the past six months, Olivia Yotter would think of the No. 7.

That is the number of seconds by which the Lake City eighth-grade distance runner missed out on an all-state finish last year.

As she fought through the hills in mile two of Saturday's Class A girls cross country state meet, she kept thinking of those seven seconds.

She was not going to be denied her all-state honors this time.

"I just kept going on those hills," Yotter said. "It killed me a lot. I felt like my knees were going to give out every single time but I just kept going. ...

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"I was really going for all-state, because I missed it just barely last year. I just kept fighting through."

State cross country meet
Lake City's Olivia Yotter (right) and Peyton Meincke (left) get loose before the Class A state cross country meet on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022 at St. Olaf's College in Northfield.
Alex VandenHouten / Post Bulletin

Not only did Yotter fight through, but she did it in a personal best time of 19 minutes and 24.76 seconds to secure her all-state honor with a 13th place finish at St. Olaf College.

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Yet, she wasn't the only Lake City distance runner to earn that honor as Jacey Majerus capped off her incredible prep career by finishing 24th (19:49.68) — the top 25 boys and girls finishers in each class are named all-state. It was the third time the six-time state qualifier was named all-state.

Those two performances, plus a 52nd place finish from sophomore Petyon Meincke, helped Lake City finish a respectable fifth out of 16 teams with 167 points.

Perham won its fifth state title with 56 points, followed by St. Cloud Cathedral (78). Led by Anna Peikert's 43rd place finish, Lourdes finished 10th (253). Nevis senior Jade Rypkema won the individual title (17:43.47, followed by Murray County Central/Fulda seniors Amanda Overgaauw (17:48.97), Ashley Overgaauw (18:52.06) and Winona Cotter Sonja Semling (18:53.43) — Semling's fourth place finish made her the area's top finisher on the day across all classes and gender.

For the Tigers, who finished eighth a year ago, it was performance they were more than proud of.

Yotter, would be the first to tell you though, they couldn't have done it without Majerus.

State cross country
Lake City senior Jacey Majerus finishes off her fifth state meet, crossing the finish line during the Class A state meet on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022 at St. Olaf's College in Northfield.
Alex VandenHouten / Post Bulletin

From her presence on the course to being a leader off of it, it meant everything to the young Tigers as well as to Yotter.

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"She's amazing," Yotter said. "I love hanging out with her, she's the best person ever. It's really nice, because she knows all these tips and stuff. Just like all she does is so helpful. She tells me to keep going, refuel my energy. Just the best."

For Majerus, it's hard to believe the six years have already past. But she admitted it will be nice to look back on.

"It hasn't quite hit me yet that it's my last time here," Majerus said. "It's sad, but I guess, nice to be done."

State cross country meet
Winona Cotter sophomore Sonja Semling (803) makes her push during the Class A state meet on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022 at St. Olaf's College in Northfield.
Alex VandenHouten / Post Bulletin

Semling finishes fourth

Sonja Semling had been in this position before.

At least year's Class A state meet, the then Winona Cotter freshman got out a little too quick with a sub-6 minute first mile, before fading back a bit with a still respectable 16th place finish for all-state honors.

Yet, she it wasn't the finish she exactly envisioned.

With that in mind, Semling entered Saturday with the strategy of being patient in that first mile, before utilizing that saved energy for the final mile plus.

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It worked to perfection.

After mile one, Semling was in 23rd but an impressive second and third mile vaulted her past the competition en route to capturing her second consecutive all-state honor by finishing fourth (18:53.43).

"It was such a fun race," Semling said. "It was nice to slowly kick off people throughout the race. I had a lot of girls with me, which just encouraged me and gave me a lot of motivation."

Teammate and friend Hazel Freyre followed a similar strategy, working up from 58th after the first mile all the way back up to 19th with a personal best time of 19:38.88 to give the Ramblers two all-state finishers.

"It's super exciting," Semling said. "I'm honored to be at the school at this time. I get to compete with my best friend Hazel and it's so exciting to watch her come under 20 minutes. It's been a season long goal. She crushed it.

It didn't stop there for Semling — her younger brother, seventh-grader Erik — competed for the Cotter boys team, which finished 11th out of 16 teams.

"He's been waiting so long to get here," Semling said. "To get to officially compete on the team, it's just a blessing to have him here and all the other boys too."

State cross country
Red Wing's Nora Hanson runs the final 100-meters of the Class AA state cross country meet on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022 at St. Olaf's College in Northfield.
Alex VandenHouten / Post Bulletin

Red Wing's Hanson places 13th, Sortland caps career

For Red Wing freshman Nora Hanson, it all started about three weeks ago at the Big Nine Conference Championships.

That's when she finally reached what has felt like a months long goal of a sub-19 minute 5,000 meter race by throwing down an 18:49.4 to win the Big Nine Title.

She followed that with a 18:58.9 to capture the Section 1AA title, before keeping that momentum going in Northfield on Saturday.

The standout started fast with a 5:45 opening mile, before riding it out for her second consecutive all-state honors with a 13th place finish (19:07.22).

It was the culmination of hard work.

"In the beginning of the season, I decided to push myself in trying to get higher," said Hanson, who placed 20th last year at state. ""But when I got under 19 minutes, I couldn't believe it. I had been working on that for a while. ... Then I won conference and then sections and I was like, 'OK, maybe I have a bigger chance (at state).'"

Hanson was also feeling confident after ending Zumbrota-Mazeppa/Kenyon-Wanamingo senior Natasha Sortland's run of three straight section titles.

"I was like, 'whoa, I beat her," Hanson said. "She's always been a great competitor against me. I always liked how we really push each other."

Sortland and Hanson were neck-and-neck through the first two miles, both being in the top 15.

But the big hills entering mile three proved to be the difference as Hanson had that extra gear at the end of the tank to separate from Sortland.

Sortland, who recently committed to run cross country and track and field at Division I Northeastern University in Boston next year, just wasn't feeling up to her usual snuff.

She had been fighting off a cold since sections, but said it was something else. She was a tad disappointed with her 30th place finish (19:34.84).

"Last week I was sick, but its something else," Sortland said. "I did not expect to run a 19:30 or 19:37. Definitely wanted to break 19. I was hoping to run in the 18:30's. Incredibly far from the case."

But this race does not take anything away from the illustrious career of Sortland.

Saturday was her fourth top 30 finish at state. She placed fourth last year in what was her third career top 11 finish.

"She's amazing," Hanson said. "I was just really happy I beat her because she's always been so great to me."

Other area finishers

Overall, it was a solid day for the area.

state cross country
Chatfield senior Aletta Strande cheers with teammate Leix Kivimagi before the Class A state meet on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022 at St. Olaf's College in Northfield.
Alex VandenHouten / Post Bulletin

Other top-60 area finishers on the day included Austin sophomore Marissa Shute (51st, 19:58.80) in Class AA, Chatfield senior Aletta Strande (36th, 20:05.62) and eighth-grader Lexi Kivimagi (38th, 20:07.68), the aformentioned Peikert (42nd, 20:11.36) and GMLOS senior McKenna Hendrickson (53rd, 20:22.15) in Class A. In Class AAA, Century sophomore Jazzlyn Hanenberger was stellar with a 41st place finish (19:22.42).

Link to full results

Alex VandenHouten has been a sports reporter at the Post Bulletin since Sept. 2021. He loves to go hiking, biking, snowshoeing and just simply being outdoors with his wife Olivia. Readers can reach Alex at avandenhouten@postbulletin.com.
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