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Alex boys edge Willmar for CLC title

The Alexandria boys’ cross country team of (left to right) Eric Branch, Jimmy Pfeffer, Austin Thom, Trent Piepenburg, Brandon Jerde, Colton Sailor, Wesley Graves and Aaron Runge posed for a photo with their Central Lakes Conference championship plague after the conference meet in Brainerd on Tuesday night. (Contributed)

The Alexandria boys’ cross country team knew it needed its best race of the season to beat a good Willmar team and that’s exactly what it got on the way to a Central Lakes Conference championship on Tuesday.

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Megan and Bethany Hasz were also spectacular again as their 1-2 finishes paced the Cardinals to a third-place team finish as Willmar took the overall title for the girls.

The Cardinal boys got three top-10 finishes from Aaron Runge (sixth, 16:51.1), Trenton Piepenburg (seventh, 17:06) and Colton Sailor (10th, 17:20.6) to secure the title by the slimmest of margins. Alexandria finished with 50 team points to Willmar’s 51, as less than two seconds would have reversed the two scores.

“This meet was a tremendous confidence builder,” head coach Mark Nelsen said. “The determination and focus of our boys’ varsity was apparent from the moment the race started. Aaron Runge had a great race competing in the lead pack through two miles and even leading at times. Brandon Jerde had an amazing race coming back from an injury last week.”

Jerde finished in 12th place overall with his time of 17:22. Austin Thom was next for Alexandria with a 15th-place finish as all five of the team’s top runners finished as All-CLC performers. Jimmy Pfeffer added honorable-mention All-CLC honors after taking 16th in 17:32.4. Wesley Graves rounded out the boys with a 34th-place finish in 18:41.5.

The Hasz sisters continued to set a torrid pace as both finished with personal-best times on the 4K course. Megan won the CLC title in a time of 13:52.4, while Bethany was right behind her in 13:53.3.

“[They] continue to improve and impress their coaches and the competition,” Nelsen said of Megan and Bethany. “In fact, five of our seven varsity races were season best times. Kiyana Miller was our improvement leader taking 28 seconds off her season best.”

Miller finished in 16:19.1 to take 23rd overall. Ellie Hurlen was 20th in 16:10.7. Karly Betterman (24th, 16:19.8), Julia Sieling (25th, 16:27.0) and Megan Shulstad (17:35.4) rounded out the Alexandria runners.

“The course was very soft as a result of all the moisture in the last couple of weeks,” Nelsen said. “However, this did not impact our boys and girls varsity teams, as they had their best team performances of the season.”

Eric Morken

Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.

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