The Alexandra boys cross country team had its sights set on trying to finish second at the Section 8AA meet in Bemidji on Thursday, and that’s exactly where the Cardinals ended up.

Bemidji was the favorite going into the day, and the Lumberjacks didn’t disappoint. They scored 53 points to win the championship in the 15-team field. Alexandria wasn’t too far behind with 64 points, while Brainerd was a distant third with 108 points.

"Our boys put it all out there and we went out and raced to the best of our abilities," Alexandria head coach Travis Hochhalter said. "The Bemidji course was a fantastic one and the seniors led this team with passion, a mission and with determination. They were fantastic and did everything in their power to have the race we were looking for. The boys felt great about their races."

Alexandria’s Jacob Kleven had a standout senior season, and he finished it with a third-place race at sections. Kleven was part of just five runners to finish in less than 17 minutes as he came across in 16:52.3. Nathan Alto of the Lumberjacks won the individual title in 16:29.3.

"Jacob did a great job with this senior-led team," Hochhalter said. "We had Jacob, Bennett Wirth, Cameron Hochsprung and Hayden Peterson run for us today. It was bittersweet getting this team to the big show and we have no state. Jacob had a fantastic career here in Alexandria and I'm very proud of all these boys. They are all looking forward to the track season."

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Joel Brault was the Cardinals’ next runner behind Kleven as he finished in 11th place in 17:14.5. Wirth was 14th in 17:25.5, and Harrison Greathouse (17th, 17:32.2) and Hochsprung (19th, 17:34.5) rounded out Alexandria’s scoring.

Peterson was 58th (18:58.3) and Landon Runge was 62nd (19:03.2) to finish off the lineup for the Cardinals.

Teams ran throughout the day with a maximum of four programs running at one time. Sam Brewer of St. Cloud Apollo was second individually with a time of 16:44.2, while Willmar runners Colin O’Farrell (16:53.9) and Sully Anez (16:56.8) rounded out the top five in fourth and fifth.

In a normal year, Alexandria would have qualified for the state meet with its top-two finish at sections. The Cardinals were determined to take advantage of whatever the postseason looked like during the COVID-19 pandemic, and Hochhalter was thrilled with how his guys raced to end the season.

"This was what we work so hard for," Hochhalter said. "Being in Bemidji at this Section 8AA championship meet was amazing. We had huge goals and we accomplished them today. So fun to watch a group of runners not only run for themselves but run for their team and be amazing for each other. These boys have planted the seed to carry on the tradition of excellence for our young runners in Alexandria. This team is what team is all about and it was special today."

SECTION 8AA CROSS COUNTRY MEET

TEAM SCORES - Bemidji - 53; Alexandria - 64; Brainerd - 108; St. Cloud Apollo - 113; Sartell-St. Stephen - 127; Monticello - 130; Willmar - 171; Becker - 191; Rocori - 192; Little Falls - 310; Detroit Lakes - 337; Fergus Falls - 344; Foley - 362; St. Cloud Tech - 367; Moorhead - 437