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Who and what to watch for at this year's state cross country meets

Once again many area runners and teams head to St. Olaf College in Northfield on Saturday to stake their claim among the state's best, at the high school cross country state meets.

MSHSL Section 1A Championships
Area runners compete during the boys and girls Section 1A Cross Country Championships on Thursday, Oct. 27, 2022, at Northern Hills Golf Course in Rochester.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin
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NORTHFIELD — The MSHSL state cross country meet is officially here.

Once again, many in the Post Bulletin's coverage area will look to stake their claim among the state's best.

Below is where and how our area teams/individuals stack up in the state meet field.

The Class AAA girls get it started at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday at St. Olaf's College.

Class AAA Boys

When: 10:30 a.m., Saturday, Nov. 5

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Where: The state meet is at St. Olaf College, Northfield

Area teams: None.

Area individuals: Ryan Gwaltney (Mayo), Lucas Cramer (Mayo), Lucas Olson (Mayo).

What to watch for: Wayzata won its 12th state title last year and looks content on capturing lucky No. 13, entering Saturday's state meet ranked No. 1 in Class AAA by the Minnesota Cross Country Coaches Association. Five Wayzata runners finished in the top 15 in the Section 6AAA Championships. Minnetonka senior Nick Gilles is back to defend his title, yet he will have to fend off a strong field, including Robbinsdale Armstrong's Noah Breker, who placed second at last year's Class AAA meet and is the only runner in the state to run a sub-15 minute 5,000-meters. Mayo junior Ryan Gwaltney is expected to be the area's top finisher. He placed sixth at a loaded Section 1AAA championships, which came after a runner-up performance in the Big Nine Championships. Now a two-time state qualifier, Gwaltney will look to improve on his 96th place finish last year.

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Class AAA Girls

When: 9:30 a.m.

Area teams: None.

Area individuals: Jazzlyn Hanenberger (Century), Ry Mathis (John Marshall)

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What to watch for: Wayzata will have a chance to complete the boys and girls team title sweep as the girls are ranked No. 1 as well. The Trojans are led by the top ranked runner in Abby Nechanicky, who didn't run at last year's state championships. She finished runner-up in 2019. Century sophomore Jazzlyn Hanenberger seems more than capable of a top-40 finish after finishing 52nd in Class AAA as a freshman. She is the All-City champion, Big Nine Conference runner-up and placed sixth at a tough Section 1AAA Championships. John Marshall junior Ry Mathis has been one of the bigger surprises of the season. In her first year of cross country, Mathis is heading to state after a ninth-place finish at sections. Her times have continued to get better as the season has gone on.

Class AA Boys

When: 3:30 p.m.

Area teams: Winona (17th time, finished second in Section 1AA)

Area individuals: David Obst (Kasson-Mantorville), Aaron Freier (Red Wing), Thomas Herrick (Austin), Josh Langseth (Stewartville), Isaiah Fitzgerald (Stewartville)

What to watch for: Obst continues to impress many around the area. The tall freshman with long strides as been dominant lately, winning the HVL and Section 1AA championships. He also placed sixth at the prestigious Mayo invite and seems prepared to improve on his 121st place finish at state as just an eighth-grader last year. He comes in with the 15th best time this season in Class AA at 16:00.6 — the only freshman in the top 18. Defending state-champion Big Lake is the top-ranked team and will look for its second state title in its second state meet. Big Nine champion Mankato East is ranked No. 2 in the latest polls, while Winona is ranked No. 12. Sophomore Leo Lohnes has run well for the Winhawks.

Class AA Girls

When: 2:30 p.m.

Area teams: None.

Area individuals: Nora Hanson (Red Wing), Natasha Sortland (Zumbrota-Mazeppa/Kenyon-Wanamingo), Marissa Shute (Austin), Sydney Lewis (Austin), Annika Johnson (Red Wing)

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What to watch for: Hanson and Sortland delivered a great battle in the Section 1AA championships, before Hanson broke through to upend Sortland's three-year streak of section titles. The freshman Hanson has won her last four meets, including the Big Nine championships in addition to sections. Sortland, a senior, had a scary situation last year when she collapsed right before the finish line and placed fourth. Sortland learned it was due to iron deficiency and she has been learning to managing it since. She looks to end one of the best prep cross country careers the area has seen with with her fourth top 11 finish at state. Hutchinson junior Isabelle Schmitz is back to defend her state title, but St. Paul Highland Park junior Luna Scorzelli is the only girl in Class AA to run sub-18 minutes (17:25). St. Paul Highland Park is the top-ranked team and won the program's first state title a year ago.

The now three-time state qualifier used an impressive final kick in the last 1,000 meters to get past friend and competitor Braxton Osterhaus of Pine Island.

Class A Boys

When: 1 p.m.

Area teams: Winona Cotter (John Fritts, Erik Semling, Ryan Littlefield, Kellen Groth, Logan Granseth), Lewiston-Altura/Rushford-Peterson (Ryan Prinsen, Tyler Betthauser, Aaron Ploetz, Brennan Kunst, Matthew Sprague, Isaac Rasmussen, Sam Adamcyk)

Area individuals: Garrison Hubka (Kingsland), Braxton Osterhaus (Pine Island), Cole Kruegel (Kingsland), Cole Arens (Wabasha-Kellogg), Tim Cooper (Lake City), Isaac Snyder (Lanesboro/Fillmore Central)

What to watch for: Garrison Hubka won the race that had long eluded him, taking first at the Section 1A meet. He now hopes that momentum translates to Saturday at St. Olaf's — where the senior finished 13th last year. Young Winona Cotter with a junior, two freshmen, a seventh-grader and an eighth-grader in its starting five punched its first ticket to state since 2013. Junior John Fritts — finished fifth at sections — has been great all season, as has seventh-grader Erik Semling, who took ninth at sections. Lewiston-Altura/Rushford-Peterson reached the co-op's second straight — and overall — state appearance with a second place finish. Junior Ryan Prinsen finished eighth at sections to lead LARP. Heritage Christian Academy is ranked No. 1 and in search of the program's first title. Nova Classical Academy senior Henry Karelitz, who finished runner-up last year, is ranked No. 1. Perham sophomore Bjorn Anderson enters with the top time in Class A (15:37.1).

Led by a strong effort from eighth-grader Olivia Yotter and senior Jacey Majerus, Lake City had a dominant showing to reach its 21st state meet. Semling's performance was just as dominant for the second consecutive season.

Class A Girls

When: Noon

Area teams: Lake City (Olivia Yotter, Jacey Majerus, Peyton Meincke, Eden Olson, Natalie Gates, Natalie Anderson, Willa Field), Lourdes (Anna Peikert, Olivia Timbers, Abigail Oxentenko, Mariah Brooks, Greta Deick, Vanessa Brooks, Sophia Peikert)

Area individuals: Sonja Semling (Cotter), Lexi Kivimagi (Chatfield), Hazel Freyre (Cotter), Aletta Strande (Chatfield), McKenna Hendrickson (GMLOS), Alivia Levi (Pine Island)

What to watch for: Olivia Yotter, Jacey Majerus and Peyton Meincke all finished in the top at sections to give LC another section title. Yotter finished second, while Majerus, who qualified for her sixth state meet, finished third. The Tigers enter state ranked No. 9 in Class A. Cotter sophomore Sonja Semling is fresh off her second consecutive Section 1A title and is ranked as the No. 11 individual in Class A. She finished 16th at state last season, earning all-state honors. Lourdes makes its return to state for the first time since 2014. Anna Peikert, Olivia Timbers and Abigail Oxentenko have all ran particularly well lately for the Eagles. Defending state champ Staples-Motley seems favored to repeat, yet it will have to hold off perennial power Perham. The Staples-Motley title last year snapped a streak of three consecutive championships for Perham, which has won four of the past six Class A state titles. Nevis senior Jade Rypkema enters with the top time of the season in Class A at 17:25. The Class A state meet record is 17:19.4 set by Cotter's Grace Ping. Rypkema will look to upend defending state champion Amanda Overgaauw of Murray County Central/Fulda.

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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