BEMIDJI – The top two teams in the section cross country tournaments advance to the state meet. In four of the past six years the Bemidji boys team has placed third in Section 8-2A, just missing out on a trip to state.
During that run of near misses Lumberjacks coach Ryan Aylesworth has been improving his program year-by-year. He knew that, in time, Bemidji would find a way to overcome the section hurdles and send a team to state.
Those efforts have been rewarded as this year’s team dominated the Section 8-3A meet and claimed the section title. Today the Jacks will be at the starting line with 11 other Class 2A qualifiers representing their schools and communities.
“Making state has been a process,” Aylesworth said. “We’ve been very close many times but the difference this year is that the boys put in the work during the off season much more than some of the previous teams.
“That extra work gave us the boost we needed and believing in ourselves provided the final edge.”
Bemidji finished the fall ranked 10th in the state coaches’ poll but Aylesworth believes that the Jacks should place in the top half.
“We’re shooting for the top five,” the coach said. “I think that is realistic.”
Defending champion and top-ranked Stillwater returns as do Owatonna, Rosemount, White Bear Lake, Centennial, Mounds View, Edina and Moorhead.
Bemidji’s Sam Carlson was the individual champ at the section meet while Elias Hendrickson was 10th, Kyle Sagedahl 13th, Adam Lewis 16th and Billy Freyholtz 19th.
It is customary for Carlson to finish ahead of his teammates but the other Lumberjacks usually run together and hit the finish line as a group.
Aylesworth believes that Carlson had a legitimate shot at placing in the top 25 and earning All-State honors. Hendrickson is looking to place in the top 50 and spur his teammates to similar finishes.
“I want to be the leader of our pack,” Hendrickson said. “The faster I run the more I push my teammates. Sam always does well but the most important part of our team is when the pack comes in.”
Today’s Class 2A boys race will begin at 1 p.m.
Class 2A girls
Jenna Truedson and Megan Serratore will represent Bemidji at today’s 2 p.m. girls Class 2A race.
Truedson placed third at last fall’s state meet while Serratore is making her first appearance at the state competition.
At the Section 8-2A race Truedson placed fourth and Serratore was ninth.
Maria Hauger of Shakopee will be shooting for her fourth straight Class 2A individual title. Truedson is one of eight returning runners who place in the top 10 last year.
TrekNorth and Bagley each have two runners at today’s state meet.
In the girls Class A competition, Sadie and Sarah Hamrin of TrekNorth will run as will Marissa Carlson of Bagley.
In the boys Class A race, Wesley Davies of Bagley will run.
Today’s Class A boys race will begin at 10 a.m. and the girls will hit the starting line at 11 a.m.