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Cross-country heads to sections

Two Harbors/Cook County cross country runners Sonja Peterson, Michelle Weitz, Shelby Arendt, Anna Schield, Mercedes Leininger and Signe Larson found snow at the Polar League meet this month. Submitted photo

If you have been following Vikings cross country, you know the girls team has been battling Esko the last couple of years for Polar League and Section 7A titles - with the ultimate goal of qualifying for the state meet.

That goal remains after Two Harbors/Cook County finished behind the Eskomos, 28 to 36, at the league meet last week.

"Last year, we surprised them to win the Polar League meet, only to finish a close fourth at the Section 7A meet," head coach Chris Hegg said. "But the big deal was the girls varsity races where, arguably, the two top teams and a half dozen of the top individual runners in the section would square off for the league championships."

The girls ran three loops at Pincushion.

At the start, many-time-state-meet competitors Sarah Chasson of Floodwood and Lindsey Dahl-Holm of Carlton set the pace with the Vikings Signe Larson, Ailee Larson and Sonja Peterson close behind, mixed with a group of Esko girls and a lone runner from McGregor.

"Coming around after the first loop, Ailee had fallen back, and was limping - not a good sign for one of our three big guns," Hegg said. "Signe has [at that point] split the two leaders, while Esko remained clumped in the chase pack."

After the second loop, Ailee had recovered some, while the rest of the leaders were pretty much the same. Signe looked like she might catch the leader, while Anna Schield was starting to move up to the chase group.

At the finish, Signe was second in 15:40, while Esko had placed four girls in between fourth and eighth and Ailee was ninth in 16:25.

Peterson, was right behind in 16:25 (top 10 are all-conference) and Schield finished in 11th with a time 16:54.

Mercedes Leininger was 13th in 17:08, Shelby Ahrendt finished 17th in 17:51 and Michelle Weitz was 18th in 18:10.

"Unfortunately Esko's fourth, fifth, seventh, eighth and 12th had beaten us," Hegg said. "At first, we were pretty let down. But upon closer look, we had a very good race - Esko just had a better one."

Signe has set a personal best by 23 seconds. Schield, Leininger and Ahrendt had personal bests, Peterson tied hers, and Weitz and Ailee were within 15 seconds of theirs.

Esko for the boys

At the gun, defending Polar League champ Raleigh Goessling of Esko took off with the two top young runners in the section, Esko sophomore Jackson Lindquist and freshman Kieran Scannell of Cook County. A ways back, the chase pack formed, full of Esko runners, along with David Bergstrom and Drew Holmen of CCHS.

After the second lap, Goessling had fallen slightly off, while Scannell hung on to Lindquist. Bergstrom and Holmen moved slowly up in the chase group, while the rest of the Vikings ran steady in the main group.

"Starting the last loop, Scannell was struggling a little, while Goessling was closing and Lindquist was clear," Hegg said.

Lindquist was first, setting a new course record of 17:14. Scannell claimed second in 17:32, the fourth best time ever recorded on the course. Holmen and Bergstrom moved steadily up, finishing fifth and sixth in 19:04 and 19:09 respectively, easily clinching all conference honors. Josh Ensign was next in 19:41, just missing all conference in 11th. Leif Gilsvik finished in 13th in 20:09.

The section run is 11 a.m. next Thursday in Cloquet.