The Alexandria girls cross country team will never know what might have happened at a state meet this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the Cardinals are one of few teams in the state who can say they finished the 2020 season perfect.
Alexandria took first in every event it competed in this fall, including on Friday when the Cardinals won the Section 8AA championship behind five top-10 individual finishes. Alexandria had 30 total points, while Willmar was second at 65 and Rocori was third with 95 points in the 15-team field.
"It meant the world to these amazing kids," Alexandria head coach Travis Hochhalter said. "They work so hard and do everything right. So fun to have an undefeated season and know we had a great race at sections! So much to be proud of during this season with so many unknows, twists and turns."
Willmar is led by two talented sisters in eighth-graders Erin and Lauren Eilers. Erin won the individual championship in a time of 18:50.6.
That was just in front of Alexandria junior Aleah Miller in second place with a time of 18:54.2. Lauren Eilers finished off the top three in 19:18.1.
The Cardinals’ depth was too much for every other team in the field. Junior Emma Ecker was Alexandria’s second finisher as she took fourth overall in 19:29.5. Freshman Jaelyn Miller was fifth in 19:30.7, and senior Taelor Dummer (ninth, 19:49.9) and sophomore Giselle Jahner (10th, 19:52.6) finished the scoring for the Cardinals.
Sophomore Brynn Kosters finished 13th in 20:04.9, and senior Mataya Hoelscher was 24th in 20:36.8 as Alexandria’s sixth and seventh runners out of 102 individual competitors.
"The focus and determination started this summer and from day one these girls were all in to do whatever it would take to have a season," Hochhalter said. "To be able to get to the section meet and be able to race like we did was special. These girls not only race well, but have created a culture of excellence and team bonding that no one can ever take away. The only thing that could be more perfect is to have the state level meet and be able to continue this unbelievable season."
The Cardinals would love to see what they could do against the other top teams in the state after taking fourth at St. Olaf a year ago. But they were content knowing they got to race and finish off an unusual 2020 season on top.
"Didn't see too much disappointment," Hochhalter said of not getting a chance to race at state. "Most were so happy to race so well on the Bemidji course and do so well. Some coaches that are not affiliated with the Minnesota State High School League are planning on putting on a race of some type that gives another option for teams to continue in a format different than high school, more like a club invite that will be October 30, 31. These girls just love to compete and run and be a great team!"
SECTION 8AA GIRLS CROSS COUNTRY MEET
GIRLS TEAM SCORES - Alexandria - 30; Willmar - 65; Rocori - 95; Sartell-St. Stephen - 138; Monticello - 164; Moorhead - 181; Bemidji - 196; Becker - 209; Brainerd - 233; Little Falls - 258; Fergus Falls - 259; Detroit Lakes - 312; Foley - 326; St. Cloud Tech - 341; St. Cloud Apollo - 360