BEMIDJI – The boys cross country team hasn’t been to the state meet since 1998 but early this season Lumberjacks coach Ryan Aylesworth believed that the 2012 edition had what it took to end that dry spell.
Thursday at Greenwood Golf Course Aylesworth’s beliefs became reality as the Jacks placed five runners in the top 20, including Sam Carlson who won the individual title, and cruised to the Section 8-2A championship.
“On Thursday I saw exactly what I thought I would see and what I wanted to see,” the coach said. “Sam did a nice job of leading the group and all of his teammates stepped up.”
BHS finished with 59 points and will be joined at the state meet by Moorhead which had 73. Carlson led the field with a time of 16:32.3, well ahead of his nearest challenger, Ezra Olson of Moorhead, who was clocked in 16:45.2.
Bemidji’s other top runners also had great races. Elias Hendrickson was 10th (17:05.5), Kyle Sagedahl placed 13th (17:14.4), Adam Lewis was 16th (17:22.0) and Billy Freyholtz finished 19th (17:31.4).
Not far behind were Caleb Appleton in 24th (17:34.7) and Seth Neubeck in 28th (17:43.0).
“Having all five runners in the top 19 was huge,” Aylesworth said. “Sam led the way and our pack runners ran excellent races like they have all season.”
Carlson wasn’t interested in his time on this cold and windy afternoon.
What was of more concern was placement.
“We were looking to win the section and that meant that every place was important,” Carlson said. “I really didn’t have a plan. Originally I thought I would just run with the leaders and then beat them at the end.
“But after the first straightaway I was in the lead so I decided to change strategies and run in front of everybody.”
During the race Carlson continued to extend his cushion and heading into the stretch run no one was going to challenge him.
“What I like about leading is that I can dictate the race,” he said. “And (Thursday) nobody was pushing me.
“The goal was to win this meet as a team,” Carlson continued. “And to do that my job was to finish in first place.”
Prior to the start Aylesworth believed that Bemidji would claim the team title but he also knew that races are not won on paper.
“We were the favorites going in,” the coach said. “We knew that if we ran like we are capable of running we should win but we still had to go out and perform.
“And that’s exactly what we did.”
Section 8-2A Meet
Bemidji* 59, Moorhead* 73, Willmar 99, Monticello 123, Sartell 146, Rocori 159, Alexandria 209, Little Falls 231, Brainerd 252, Detroit Lakes 270, Thief River Falls 312, Fergus Falls 323, St. Cloud Tech 347, Becker 380, Sauk Rapids 433, St. Cloud Apollo 449
*-state team qualifiers
1-Sam Carlson (Bem) 16:32.
10-Elias Hendrickson 17:05.5; 13-Kyle Sagedahl 17:14.4; 16-Adam Lewis 17:22.0; 19-Billy Freyholtz 17:31.4; 24-Caleb Appleton 17:34.7; 28-Seth Neubeck 17:43.0