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Runners close season at state meet

The Two Harbors-Cook County cross country team poses for a picture with fans at the state meet Saturday in Northfield. Submitted photo1 / 2
Kieran Scannell finished 134th in the field in the boys state meet with a time of 18:57. Submitted photo2 / 2

The Two Harbors-Cook County cross country team headed down to the Minnesota State championship meet at St. Olaf College in Northfield with lots of enthusiasm after a big send-off at school, well wishes from local fans and a couple of neat "good luck" signs at businesses in Two Harbors.

The girls team finished 15th with 299 points, two points out of 14th and only 47 points from a Top 10 place. Boys runner Kieran Scannell finished 134th in the field.

"Our expectations were realistic," said head coach Chris Hegg. "The girls team was second in a section that didn't have any Top 10-rated teams, and section champ Scannell, a legitimate candidate for All-State honors, was significantly weakened by a five-day bout with the flu. Still, getting to a state meet is a huge accomplishment in high school athletics, with everyone there a winner."

The girls team was helped right away.

"By random draw, we ended up right next to our main rival Esko," Hegg said. "I thought that would have been helpful for pacing, since they have been to state three years in a row."

"I must have missed Signe Larson, who should have been at least in the middle," Hegg said of the 160-runner field. "Same with Ailee Larson and Sonja Peterson, who are usually close behind. Gazing to the back of the field, I spotted our other four runners, Mercedes Leininger, Anna Schield, Michelle Weitz and Shelby Ahrendt. They like to start slower, and would be finishing back in the field. Right in front of them were our three top runners. We were in positions 154-160. This was not going to go well. In a normal race you can run an even pace and pick off fading runners. At the state meet, the field is jammed together and passing is much harder. You get jostled and cut off - a big pace breaker."

Those runners did move up. Most of them ended up about 30 seconds off their projected time.

Signe finished 59th in 16:28. Ailee was 89th in 16:54, Peterson 111th in 17:12, Leininger 120th in 17:22, Schield 132nd in 17:39, Weitz 154th in 18:37 and Ahrendt 155th in 18:46.

"We were a little disappointed, but hardly shattered," Hegg said "We were hoping for about a 12th place finish, and could have done it with a little better strategy. Still, it was the state meet, we weren't last, and there is next year."

Scannell was up first for the Vikings during the day.

"We weren't even sure his was going to run until he did a hard warm-up, to help evaluate his health," Hegg said. "He hadn't run in the nine days since sections, and two boys who were sick had collapsed in the morning's Class AA race. As he came back to me, he said he felt OK, then immediately went into a coughing spasm. We agreed to let him run, but start out conservatively for the first mile then adjust from there."

As usual, he stuck with the plan - unfortunately, that meant racing 2 minutes slower than normal, finishing in 18:57. As a reference, the second place finisher at section was 21st, with the Top 25 being All-State.

"As a ninth grader, he wasn't too disappointed though, as he will have many more chances," Hegg said.

Even though things didn't work out for the team, they had plenty of support.

"Our caravan of 25 team members and coaches, plus another 20-plus family and friends was met by numerous CCHS cross country alumni and fans, including current collegiate runners Heidi Sande and Dan Schield, plus last year's star Losha Senty," Hegg said. "It always amazes me how many people from small towns up the North Shore show up at high school athletic events. Per capita, we had the biggest, loudest group there."

Members of the team from Two Harbors include seniors Peterson, Leininger, along with junior Schield.

2009 Personal bests

Signe Larson, 15:40

Ailee Larson, 16:10

Sonja Peterson, 16:25

Anna Schield, 16:54

Mercedes Leininger, 16:55

Michelle Weitz, 17:25

Shelby Ahrendt, 17:51