The West Central Area boys cross country team has run at the top of the pack all season long as the Class A’s top-ranked team in Minnesota. On Tuesday at the Section 6A meet at Long Prairie, another talented team barely edged the Knights.

Staples-Motley has been right there with WCA all fall as the No. 2 ranked team in state. The Knights edged the Cardinals by two points earlier in the year. On Tuesday, it was the other way around as Staples-Motley won the section title with 38 points, and WCA was second at 40.

“Both teams are victims of our own success,” WCA head coach John Van Kempen said. “Both teams have been ranked Nos. 1 and 2 in the state all season and when you throw 26 teams into a race, you’d expect runners from other teams to fill in more spots. Of the top 19 finishers of 166 racers, the Cardinals and Knights had 12 of them.”

Emmet Anderson is the No. 1-ranked individual runner in Class A, and he proved it at Long Prairie. Anderson won the section title in 15:51.1. That was more than a minute faster than WCA’s Kade Runge and Kyle Schill, who were second and third in 16:55.4 and 16:56.7.

Staples-Motley used a fifth-place finish from Issiah Tabatt (16:59.4), ninth-place finish from Lyle Brownell (17:32), 10th-place finish from Logan Robben (17:33.3) and 13th-place finish from Luke Brownell (18:00.3) to complete its scoring.

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The Knights got an eighth-place finish from Alex Salwasser in 17:07.8. Shad Swanson was 11th in 17:44.9, and Reubens Swanson finished the team scoring in 16th place (18:11.6). Peyton Hanson (32nd, 18:52.1) and Roman Mihailovschi (40th, 19:08.4) also ran varsity for WCA.

“At the end of the day, the kids were thankful for just getting the opportunity to have our season and to race the Cardinals one last time,” Van Kempen said. “In a normal year, we would advance to the state meet where we would get another shot at beating them, but not this year due to COVID.”

It’s the end of the season for all teams, and another impressive finish for this WCA program.

“In the last six seasons, the boys have four section titles and two second-place finishes,” Van Kempen said. “Senior Kyle Schill has been a part of all of them. His running resume with the team is absolutely unbelievable. At state, the teams Kyle raced with have finished fourth, fifth, eighth, second and second, and we believe this year we could have been on the podium again.”

The resume also includes a conference championship by overtaking the Perham Yellowjackets for the first time in 18 seasons.

“With all that on his running resume, his personal resume is even more impressive,” Van Kempen said of Schill. “He’s a straight-A student and treats every single person in the school with respect. During this difficult season with COVID and things constantly changing, there hasn’t been a more positive leader on the team than him. Prior to the race, he hugged and thanked his coaches and at that point for me, nothing else mattered.”

A-B-E, Lakers, Panthers, Silverstreaks wrap up their seasons

The 24-team Section 6A field also includes area programs in Ashby-Brandon-Evansville, Osakis, Parkers Prairie and Minnewaska.

The Ashby-Brandon-Evansville boys made huge strides this year and it was capped off with a sixth-place team finish in Long Prairie. A-B-E finished with 236 points, 10 away from Holdingford in the fifth-place spot.

“Overall, this was a great night for us,” Ashby-Brandon-Evansville head coach Robert Bosma said. “Last year, we finished 19th at sections, so coming in at sixth was huge for our guys and our program. I just hope we can take this momentum and push it to next year.”

Ashby-Brandon-Evansville runner Hunter Norby led A-B-E at the Section 6A meet with a 24th-place finish out of 166 runners on Tuesday in Long Prairie. (Jared Rubado / Echo Press)
Ashby-Brandon-Evansville runner Hunter Norby led A-B-E at the Section 6A meet with a 24th-place finish out of 166 runners on Tuesday in Long Prairie. (Jared Rubado / Echo Press)

Cross country newcomer Hunter Norby led A-B-E all season, and that was the case on Tuesday with his 24th-place individual finish in 18:33.2.

“Hunter had a Melrose runner race him up that final hill and it came to a sprint finish, something he has not had to do all year,” Bosma said. “Though Tyler (Pohlmann) beat him at the end, Hunter’s determination was evident. It was fun to see that type of race and how he gave the effort even though he was running on fumes.”

Wesley Siira was next in line for A-B-E in 42nd place in 19:14. Micah Fossell (49th, 19:20.4), Jayden Hoidahl (52nd, 19:27.9) and Matson Hoff (70th, 19:55.3) finished the team scoring. Logan Froemming (80th, 20:08.2) and Jacob Cook (98th, 20:30.7) ran in the meet, as well.

“Long Prairie has a tough, hilly course,” Bosma said. “The final hill the runners face definitely separated the competitors from runners. With this, many of the times throughout the race were not the best, but the competition was still top notch. Many of our guys ran terrific races and their strategy was exactly like we discussed.”

The Parkers Prairie boys were next in line for local programs as the Panthers finished eighth overall with 266 points.

Senior Jonathan Suchy wrapped up his standout career by taking sixth individually in a time of 17:03.5, and sophomore James Suchy was 12th in 17:54.7. Cole Steele (72nd, 19:56.7), Jason Koehn (83rd, 20:09.1) and Justin Koehn (96th, 20:29.7) finished off the scoring, while Isaac Grabow (150th, 22:32.7) was the Panthers’ sixth runner.

Minnewaska finished right behind Parkers Prairie in ninth place with 318 points.

The Lakers have a young group led by freshman Maeson Tank, who finished 25th in 18:38.8. Sophomore Logan Maanum (31st, 18:50.4), eighth-grader Zach Palmer (78th, 20:04.9), eighth-grader Aiden Maanum (84th, 20:14.6), sophomore Nick Ankeny (103rd, 20:36.9), junior Noah Danielson (129th, 21:28.8) and eighth-grader Ian Mills (139th, 21:55.9) rounded out the Lakers’ lineup.

The Osakis boys finished 11th with 340 points.

Freshman Jacob Taplin paced the Silverstreaks in 35th place with a time of 19:01, and fellow freshman Mason Grove was 54th in 19:29.2.

Eighth-grader Zach Brueder was 67th (19:52.6), and freshmen Zach Fiskness (87th, 20:18.4) and Brennen Gustafson (99th, 20:31.6) finished Osakis’ team scoring.

Senior Logan Grove wrapped up his career in 117th place (21:04) and sophomore Marcus Wolf finished off the lineup in 140th place (21:56.8).