CROSS COUNTRY: Bemidji boys, girls teams punch ticket to state meet
DETROIT LAKES — When the season began in August Bemidji cross country coach Ryan Aylesworth believed that his boys and girls teams had the potential to advance to the state meet in November.
The veteran coach also knew that state tournament appearances are not handed out like Halloween candy and that dedication and constant work toward the goal would be required.
Throughout the fall the Lumberjacks runners grew as individuals and as a team. Aylesworth could see that they were dedicated to the cause and he didn’t have to prod the runners to put in the miles.
Thursday at the Section 8-2A meet in Detroit Lakes all of the effort was rewarded as both the boys and girls teams qualified for the state meet Nov. 2 at St. Olaf.
“Thursday was the best day in Lumberjacks cross country history in a very long time,” Aylesworth said. “Sending both teams to state is tremendous.”
Bemidji’s boys team won the section title with 73 points. Alexandria also advanced to the state as the runner-up although the Cardinals finished well behind the Jacks with 94 points.
In the girls division, Willmar dominated and won with 53 points. BHS, however, claimed second place with 99 points, just nipping Moorhead (101), Alexandria (103) and Monticello (106) for that coveted position.
Individually, Jenna Truedson placed third with a time of 14:41 over the 2.5-mile course. Bemidji’s other top-five runners all finished among the top 30 and that balance was instrumental in the team victory.
“Every single point counted,” Aylesworth said. “There were four teams within seven points and every position was important.”
Leading the group was Sadie Hamrin who placed 20th. Atomic Thorson finished 23rd, Are Gislason 25th and Megan Serratore 28th.
Bemidji’s kickers were Anna Gislason who was 60th and Ali Neubeck who placed 64th.
“This is the first time a Bemidji girls team has advanced to state in cross country since 1996,” Aylesworth said. “It was a great day. Last year we were seventh as a team and now we have moved all the way to second. We didn’t run the perfect race but we ran well enough to get to state.”
Boys win section
The boys were seeded No. 1 in the section and they lived up to that billing behind Sam Carlson’s individual championship and the top-30 finished by the next four runners.
“We were favored but in cross country there are no time outs. There are no do overs. It’s all or nothing. You have to perform on that day,” Aylesworth said.
“And the boys performed.”
Carlson dominated individually as his time of 16:28 over the 3-mile course was 15 seconds faster than that of his nearest challenger.
“Sam opened a gap from the start and he held a comfortable lead the entire way,” Aylesworth said.
“But to win the team championship we needed solid performances from all of our top five guys. And that’s what we got.”
Caleb Appleton was 10th, Noah Holter 11th, Evan White 20th and Billy Freyholtz 28th to complete Bemidji’s scoring. Seth Neubeck placed 46th and Cody Freyholtz 48.
“Everybody stepped up and got the job done,” the coach said. “I couldn’t be prouder of how the girls and the boys performed.”