Cross country: Alexandria boys see how they stack up against top teams at Lions Meet
The Cardinals finished 17th overall and right between two other Section 8AA teams they will be competing with for a spot at state at the section meet in a few weeks.
ALEXANDRIA — The Alexandria boys cross country team has the goal of trying to be a state tournament team out of Section 8AA this season, and the Lions Meet of Champions at Arrowwood Resort on Oct. 8 served as a good tuneup for the championship season.
Some of the best programs from multiple class levels were in Alexandria on Saturday as 27 total teams ran the varsity race on the boys’ side. The Cardinals finished 17th with 409 points. That was right behind section rival Rocori (401) and right in front of Willmar (417).
Stillwater won the meet with 77 points. Mounds View (83) and Edina (177) rounded out the top three.
“They were gutsy,” Alexandria head coach Travis Hochhalter said of the races his guys ran on Saturday. “We’re working on that grittiness in the middle, and I think we’re starting to get there. Riley Wagner being a senior and coming out and trying to help this team, it’s pretty fun to see a leader like that. Harry Greathouse, just the group of seniors, Luke Panther, they’re absolutely amazing.”
Greathouse continued a good season as he led Alexandria by taking 33rd overall. He finished in a time of 17:07.
It was a field full of strong runners as Nolan Sutter (15:34.2) of Chaska, Sully Anez (15:38.6) of Willmar, Elliott McArthur (15:49.8) of Mounds View and Roseville's Robert Mechura (15:54.6) all posted sub-16-minute times to lead the field.
“I knew there were going to be a lot of runners, and I knew it would be a fun run,” Greathouse said. “Obviously, you want to try your hardest, but I think today was a lot about having fun. I came in with that mindset and it ended up pretty good. It was a great day for running. I wouldn’t say carefree. We tried our hardest. We wanted to run our hardest, but also have fun while doing it, especially in our own (home) race.”
Greathouse has been a good varsity runner for the Cardinals in prior years, but he has taken a leap this season to be the most consistent top finisher for Alexandria as a senior.
“We build each year,” Hochhalter said. “We know what we need to do for strength and miles, and years with running, you just get better. That’s what Harry has done. He’s done everything right, and he’s going to have a lot of really good races yet. I could see him running in college also.”
Greathouse prepared himself this offseason by putting in miles with others through the Alexandria run club. He knew the opportunity he and this team had this fall and wanted to do what he could to take full advantage of it in his final high school season.
Greathouse ran a personal-best time of 16:42 at Rocori earlier this season. His goal by the end of the season is to try to reach that sub-16-minute time that a runner typically needs to get in order to have a chance at winning these boys varsity races.
“Just the idea of being able to get to state with the team or with a couple people at least. That’s a great motivator for me,” Greathouse said. “Getting a PR or past a certain time just pushes me.”
Junior Landon Runge, who made the state meet as a sophomore in 2021, was Alexandria’s second runner on Saturday in 67th place (17:42.5) out of 188 runners. Junior Thomas Wilmesmeier (88th, 18:03.4), senior Riley Wagner (105th, 18:21.6) and senior Luke Panther (116th, 18:36.6) rounded out the Cardinals’ scoring.
Senior Nolan Peterson (128th, 18:47.9) and junior Payton Gessford (129th, 18:48.5) finished off Alexandria’s varsity lineup.
“I think the team is in great shape right now, but there’s just some courses that are a little harder than others,” Greathouse said. “This one kind of puts some people’s game off. You just kind of push past that. I think the team is in a great place, better than last year, and we’re going to do great.”
Up next for the Cardinals is the Central Lakes Conference championship race at Fergus Falls on Oct. 18 at 4 p.m. Alexandria will then host the Section 8AA championship on Oct. 27 at 3:30 p.m. back at Arrowwood Resort.
Alexandria, Willmar, Rocori and Pequot Lakes (20th) are all Section 8AA programs that were packed close together at the Lions Meet. Fergus Falls was not there on the boys’ side on Saturday, but the Otters have a team competing near the top of the section too.
The Cardinals are ready to make their final push in an attempt to finish among the top two teams at sections to qualify for the state meet on Nov. 5.
“We have a good, strong core,” Hochhalter said. “We have that top four, and we just need somebody to step up in that fifth position. If somebody does, we have a really good shot, but they got to want it. I think they do. I think they’re ready to go and we’re ready to make a big step in the next 10-14 days.”
LIONS MEET OF CHAMPIONS - TOP-10 TEAMS - Stillwater - 77; Mounds View - 83; Edina - 177; Roseville - 204; St. Paul Highland Park - 216; Buffalo - 217; White Bear Lake - 243; Monticello - 249; Becker - 265; Marshall - 324