The North Shore Storm boys cross-country team was supposed to take a step back this year.
Jake Paron, a past Section 7A champion, graduated in 2018 and is now running for the Vikings at Augustana College in Sioux Falls, S.D.
In 2018, the boys team won the section for the first time in program history, but with Paron gone, their status in 2018 was uncertain.
Still, the team had four of its top five runners from 2017 returning this season. Isaac Swanson, Will Surbaugh and Noah Smith all had solid seasons, running at the top of most meets and times around the 17-minute mark. Junior Brenden Seipke had also been a reliable sub-18 minute 5,000 meters all season, but he exploded at the Section 7A meet.
Instead of being a solid fourth runner for the Storm, Seipke finished fifth in the section with a time of 16 minutes, 55 seconds, just a tenth of a second behind Swanson in fourth place. Swanson, Seipke and Smith all finished in the second pack of runners at the section meet, along with Smith, who finished eighth in 17:00.7.
"I was really focused and I was thinking what was going to happen was I was still going to be the fourth runner, but I'm still going to bring it in strong for my team," Seipke said. "I saw Isaac, Will (Surbaugh) and Noah and was not too far behind Noah. Right before the 2-mile, I was like, 'You know what? I've got something left.'"
During the final 400 meters, Swanson and Seipke competed with Eveleth-Gilbert's Andrew Larsen, with Seipke just edging the Golden Bears's junior for fifth place in the section, and a time that surprised even Seipke.
"I really wasn't focused on my time," he said. "But then I heard my time and I was like, 'What?'"
All five of the Storm's scoring runners finished in under 19 minutes, good enough for second in the section, just behind Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin for the section title.
The Titans' Geno Uhrbom won his second consecutive Section 7A title in 15:47.8 and is the favorite to win the Class A title at the state meet Saturday, Nov. 3, at St. Olaf College in Northfield.
Section 7A Championships
At Cloquet Country Club
1. Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin, 69; 2. North Shore, 86; 3. Ely, 143; 4. International Falls, 151; 5. Cromwell-Wright/Floodwood, 162; 6. Moose Lake-Willow River/Barnum, 174; 7. Mountain Iron-Buhl, 184; 8. Esko, 198; 9. Proctor, 213; 10. Lakeview Christian Academy, 219; 11. Virginia, 248; 12. Deer River, 294; 13. Wrenshall, 307; 14. Duluth Marshall, 379; 15. Mesabi East, 397; 16. East Central, 407; 17. South Ridge, 411; 18. Chisholm, 565; 19. McGregor, 566.
1. Geno Uhrbom, GNK, 15:47.8; 2. Cameron Stocke, V, 16:05.8; 3. Luke Olson, Ely, 16:32.0; 4. Isaac Swanson, NS, 16:54.9; 5. Brenden Seipke, NS, 16:55.0; 6. Andrew Larsen, EG, 16:55.1; 7. Aaron Nelson, MIB, 17:00.6; 8. Noah Smith, NS, 17:00.7; 9. Taran Howard, DR, 17:02.7; 10. Sam Rengo, Esko, 17:08.2; 16. Will Surbaugh, NS, 17:18.6; 57. J.C. Holman, NS, 18:43.4; 65. Kevin Viren, NS, 18:57.4; 78. Tate Crawford, NS, 19:14.7.