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Alexandria boys send two to state as Cardinals just miss qualifying as a team from Section 8AA

Senior Joel Brault and sophomore Landon Runge both finished Thursday's race at Arrowwood Resort and Conference Center in the top 9 individually to secure their spots at St. Olaf on Nov. 6.

The Alexandria boys cross country team proved to itself after a third-place finish at the Central Lakes Conference championship on Oct. 19 that there was certainly a chance to do something special at the Section 8AA meet on Thursday with a lot of the same teams in the mix from both fields.

The Cardinals came close to doing just that. Alexandria needed a top-two finish to qualify for the state meet on Nov. 6, but Pequot Lakes (90 points) edged the Cardinals by five points for that runner-up finish. Willmar joined their girls program in winning the section title and advancing to state for the boys with 71 team points.

“Beginning of the season, you can look at all the results from Detroit Lakes and there was no one that had us in the top seven or eight here at sections,” Alexandria head coach Travis Hochhalter said. “This team rallied around each other. We have some amazing silent leaders on this team. Joel Brault, our senior, we’re going to miss him, but this team rallied around him and rallied around each other. They said we want to do more than that this year. We ended up getting closer and closer to those teams.”

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Brault and sophomore teammate Landon Runge both extended their seasons as they qualified as individuals for the Class AA state meet at St. Olaf. Brault was sixth overall in the 5K with a time of 17:16.7, while Runge was ninth in 17:37.7. Brault and Runge will run at 2:30 p.m. on Nov. 6 in the Class AA boys meet.

“That’s the goal every year is to make it as a team, but some years you don’t have that. To take two is a really important thing,” Hochhalter said. “We’ll look at some details, but I think we need to let (Harrison Greathouse) go down there and see what it looks like too. Warm up with us and just see what it looks like. It will be fun to see what Joel and Landon do.”

Greathouse, a junior, just missed qualifying for state as he finished right behind Runge in 10th place with a time of 17:37.9. Sophomores Throck Lehmann (31st, 18:42.4) and Tom Wilmesmeier (39th, 18:53.9) finished off Alexandria’s team scoring. Juniors Nolan Peterson (40th, 18:56) and Luke Panther (42nd, 18:58.7) were right behind them to round out the lineup.

“Joel went out a little bit slower, but he likes to do that,” Hochhalter said. “Then Landon and Harry stuck right with him. That pack of three just proved we wanted to accomplish something today. (Runge and Greathouse) stayed as long as they could. Kind of a bummer for Harry to miss going to state by 0.2 seconds and as a team losing by five points, but I think it makes this team stronger.”

Willmar was led by freshman Sully Anez, who won the section title by more than 27 seconds in a time of 16:23.8. Rocori’s Vincent Kaluza was second in 16:50.9, while Willmar’s Colin O’Farrell (16:56.8) and Jonathan Krueger (16:59.3) of East Grand Forks all finished in under 17 minutes, as well.

“Luke Panther is going to be a senior next year, and the race he ran today was a PR,” Hochhalter said. “He hasn’t had a PR for two years. Thomas Wilmesmeier had a side ache the last minute or so and just stuck in there. He was super tough. They’re all willing to do anything we ask.”

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That’s why expectations will be high next season for this group, with Brault being the one graduating senior. He’s a talented runner to replace, but the Cardinals have plenty to build on after a strong finish to this season.

“They put every effort into getting here today,” Hochhalter said. “To see what they did in 11 weeks, they have so much in front of them. The team they have next year, if they get everyone back in and put some miles on, they will be a force in this section.”

SECTION 8AA MEET

BOYS TEAM SCORES - Willmar - 71; Pequot Lakes - 90; Alexandria - 95; Fergus Falls - 96; Rocori - 127; Little Falls - 132; East Grand Forks - 140; Albany - 219; New London-Spicer - 234; Melrose Area - 277; Thief River Falls - 285; Detroit Lakes - 306

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Eric Morken is a sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press Newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota, a property of the Forum News Service. Morken covers a variety of stories throughout the Douglas County area, as well as statewide outdoor issues.
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