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2023 Cross Country State Meet Recap

Posted: Saturday, November 4, 2023 - 6:55 PM

Cross Country23News

Thousands of cross country fans descended on University of Minnesota Les Bolstad Golf Course on Saturday, Nov. 4 for the annual Minnesota State High School League’s Boys and Girls Cross Country State Meet. The meet was a homecoming of sorts as the Cross Country State Meet was previously held at Les Bolstad from 1964-90. The meet then shifted to St. Olaf College in Northfield from 1991 through last season.

In its new, but familiar venue, six races were held over the 5,000-meter course. Here is a recap of the meet’s return to Falcon Heights:

Class A

Boys: Mounds Park Academy junior Eddie Snider made a major leap in the past year, improving from a 23rd-place finish in 2022, to the winner’s circle in 2023. In doing so, Snider had to hold off hard-charging Will Ahrens, a junior from Redwood Valley, in the downhill chute to the finish. Snider finished in a time of 15 minutes, 40 seconds, just one second ahead of Ahrens, who was fourth overall in 2024 and considered one of the favorites this season.

“I didn’t hear him coming,” Snider said of Ahrens. “Really, I just felt good the entire way and tried to do my best to finish strong.”

Nick Hanson, a senior from St. John’s Prep, was third; Northwest Nighthawks junior Mark Swanson was fourth and Heritage Christian Academy sophomore Lev Dougherty was fifth.

Heritage Christian Academy, which co-ops with West Lutheran and Rivertree School, captured the team championship for the second consecutive season with 106 points. Winona-based Cotter High School was runner-up with 114 and Bertha-Hewitt was third with 121. In addition to Dougherty, scoring for Heritage Christian Academy were junior Jacob Pfotenbauer, sophomore Jack Nelson, senior Thomas Avra and freshman Blake Ingelin.

Girls: St. John’s Prep senior Olivia Pauly sailed to the individual championship, winning by an 11-second margin in 18:20.5. In the finishing area, a fan yelled to her, “You just ran the race of your life!” When asked if it was, Pauly beamed and said, “I don’t know that I ever imagined finishing my high school career this way, as a state champion. It’s just unreal.”

Staples-Motley sophomore Audrey Brownell was the runner-up followed by St. Cloud Cathedral senior Ella Voit. Luverne senior Jenna DeBates and Staples-Motley senior Kyanna Burton were fourth and fifth, respectively.

St. Cloud Cathedral won the team championship with 68 points and Staples-Motley was a distant second at 125. Cotter was third at 151. Scoring for St. Cloud Cathedral were Voit, senior Clara Schad, freshman Katelyn Waldoch, sophomore Addie Mondloch and eighth-grader Enya Scanlon.

Class AA

Boys: Pequot Lakes senior Eli Hall crossed the finish line first in a time of 15:13.3, 11 seconds ahead of runner-up Bjorn  Anderson, a junior from Perham. Big Lake junior Jack Leuer was third, followed by Annandale junior Sal Wirth and Mankato East senior Isaiah Anderson. Mankato East won the team title for the second consecutive season with 46 points. Perham, which moved up to Class AA this year, was second with 97 and Marshall placed third with 114.

In addition to Anderson, scoring for Mankato East were senior Luke Scholtes, senior Evan MacLean, sophomore Dayton Clobes and junior Audi Thom.

Girls: After the final race of the day, Hutchinson senior Isabelle Schmitz looked refreshed as she basked in the afternoon sun and the joy of ending her prep career with a championship. She captured the individual championship in a time of 17:56.5, nearly 16 seconds in front of Monticello sophomore Isabel Mahoney.

“Wow, this is amazing,” she said to Hutchinson fans near the finishing area. Schmitz was the Class AA champion in 2021 and runner-up in 2022 to St. Paul Highland Park’s Luna Scorzelli, who was ninth on Saturday.   

Marshall senior Allyson Sample was third followed by Fairmont junior Macy Hanson and Willmar junior Lauren Eilers, who were fourth and fifth, respectively. Marshall captured the team crown with 81 points and dethroned St. Paul Highland Park, the runner-up with 101. Alexandria also had 101 points, but St. Paul Highland Park finished higher in the team chase by virtue of tie-breaker criteria.

Marshall’s team scorers were eighth-grader Oakley Schneekloth, freshman Kately Leibfried, sophomore Taleigha Bigler and senior Cameen McFarquhar.

Class AAA

Boys: Although Roseville is an adjacent suburb to Falcon Heights, Roseville High School junior Robert Mechura seldom takes distance training runs that would pass the Les Bolstad Golf Course, the renewed venue for the League’s Cross Country State Meet.

“Being unfamiliar with it is OK,” Mechura said Saturday. “I just visualize my race to the course we are running.”

That preparation includes imagining a finishing kick used to either catch an opponent or keep one at bay.

Mechura tapped into that kick with about 20 meters remaining to capture the big-school crown with a time of 15:04.2. The final surge gave Mechura a three-second advantage over Minneapolis Southwest senior Sam Scott, the Class AA runner-up in 2022. Mechura, meanwhile, was in 38th place in 2022.

“I was confident in my kick,” Mechura said. “I knew that’s what it would come down to.”

Wayzata junior William Weber was third, followed by Chaska senior Nolan Sutter and Osseo senior Cade Sanvik in fourth and fifth respectively.

To the surprise of no one, Wayzata won the team championship for the third consecutive season and 12th time overall with 63 points. Scoring for the Trojans were senior Daniel McCollor, senior Tyler Kissell, senior Hayes McMillan and junior Alex Haag. Wayzata is the first big-school team to win three consecutive championships since Stillwater had a run of three in 1995-97.

Minnetonka, Wayzata’s Lake Conference rival, was runner-up with 101 and Mounds View was third at 122.

Girls: With dried mud on her hands and parts of her legs, Forest Lake junior Norah Hushagen appeared to have had a rough day on the race course. Instead, they were signs that told the tale of her journey to a state championship. She slipped at the 2,000-meter mark of the race while navigating a corner.

Leading the race at the time helped prevent the mishap from escalating. Hushagen calmly told herself she had better go a little faster.

And did she ever. As she crested the hill that precedes the long downward descent to the finish line, all that surrounded Hushagen was a sea of green grass that was bold in the warming sun and the cheering of appreciative fans. She finished in 17:27.6, nearly 33 seconds in front of Bemidji senior Mia Hoffman, who was the runner-up. Wayzata junior Jazleen Malherek-Osorio was third and Forest Lake sophomore Anna VanAcker was fourth. Hopkins junior Sydney Drevlow, expected to challenge for the championship was fifth.

“I’ve always thought it would be cool to be the first one across the finish line just one time,” Hushagen said. “It was incredible.”

Wayzata was the repeat team champion with 48 points, easily outdistancing Prior Lake, who was runner-up with 122. In addition to Malherek-Osorio, the Trojans’ top five included sophomore Miley Clark, freshman Aubrey Smith, junior Alyson Kleyman and sophomore Chloe Kissell.

Minnetonka was third with 132.

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