MARSHALL - Several area cross country teams and runners will be attempting to qualify for state competition today at section meets in Class AA and Class A.
The top two teams and the top eight runners who are not part of an advancing team in each section receive bids to the MSHSL State Championships on Nov. 2 at Saint Olaf College in Northfield.
In Class AA, Marshall is among 15 teams that are competing in the Section 2 Championships at 4 p.m. today at Buffalo Heights Golf Course in Buffalo. The field also includes Buffalo, Chanhassen, Chaska, Dassel-Cokato, Delano, Hutchinson, Mankato East, Mankato West, Mound-Westonka, New Prague, Orono, Shakopee, Waconia and Worthington.
Hutchinson, ranked fourth in Class AA, is the favorite to capture the Section 2 team championship. It's top runner, senior Isaiah Barlow, who is rated third among Class AA individuals, is looking to become the Section 2 medalist.
The Tigers are competing with Andrew Bell (16 minutes, 38 seconds, season best; 17:00, race average), Blaine Moran (16:55; 17:14), Michael Larson (17:19; 17:42), Wade DeAustin (17:24, 17:58), Chase VanKeulen (17:48; 18:27), John Botsford (18:01; 18:35) and Mason Reese (18:41; 19:21).
"We don't want to worry about what any of the other teams are doing because we need to focus on what we're doing as a team," Marshall boys cross country head coach Brian Liebfried said. "We need to rally together to see what we can do. We're going with that thought in mind and we'll try to have the best race that we possibly can have."
Leibfried said the Tigers, who won the Southwest Conference championship this season, have enjoyed their most success in 2013 when they are able to close the gaps between runners.
"Hopefully, we will have Andrew and Blaine toward the front. I think they have some goals, individually," Leibfried said. "We need to close that gap, like we have been doing. In our spread (of runners), I would like Michael, Wade, Chase, Jon and Mason to be able to see each other throughout the race. In our two best finishes this season, that gap was 1:02 and 1:04."
Ranked seventh in Class AA, Chanhassen is seekiing the Section 2 team championship for the fifth straight year. Chanhassen's top runner, freshman Anastasia Korzenowski, received honorable mention in the final Class AA poll, while Shakopee eighth-grader Tess Misgen is rated 12th among individuals.
Marshall girls cross country head coach Marie Sample feels the Tigers are not afraid to go head-to-head with state-ranked teams.
"Chanhassen is the four-time returning section champions. They have a little depth and a lot of experience. We're just younger," Sample said. "If Chanhassen is thinking they have a good stab at winning it, I know what our young team is capable of doing. We are rested, we're healthy and we are fired up."
The Tigers' top runners are Claire Boersma (14:44; 15:17), Nichole Sample (14:59; 15:34), Jackie Turner (15:21; 15:46), Morgan Radel (15:32; 15:53), Courtney Mauch (15:43; 16:30), Sydney Mauch (15:56; 16:34) and Elodie Tholen (16:07; 16:39), Marah Hart (16:04; 16:48) and Sydney Blomme (15:42; 16:50).
Sample has been scouting the Tigers' competition.
"I have been watching the progress of Chanhassen and Chaska - the two teams we're looking to get in front of - since we defeated both of them at Alexandria," Sample said. "Korzenowski is coming back to run after having a health issue and she is running about the same times that Claire Boersma is running for us. I think that really evens us out, plus I think our 3-4-5 runners are stronger than their 3-4-5 runners right now."
In Class A, 21 teams are slated to compete in the Section 3 Championships, which will take place at 4 p.m. today at Adrian Country Club. Those teams include Adrian, Bird Island-Olivia-Lake Lillian, Canby/Minneota/Lincoln HI, Edgerton/Ellsworth, Hills-Beaver Creek, Jackson County Central, Lac Qui Parle Valley/Dawson-Boyd, Lakeview, Luverne, MACCRAY/Renville County West, Montevideo, Mountain Lake Area, Murray County Central, Pipestone Area, Redwood Valley, Southwest Minnesota Christian, Springfield/Cedar Mountain/Comfrey, Southwestern United, Tracy-Milroy-Balaton and Windom Area and Yellow Medicine East.
Although there are no ranked teams in the boys race, Redwood Valley senior Ryan Phillips is rated 11th among Class A individuals. He is the favorite to become the Section 3 medalist.
Area runners, with their season-best times in parenthesis, include Wyatt Johansen (17:11), of C/M/L; Matt Lavoy (17:24), of TMB; McKinley Johansen (17:31), of C/M/L; Travis Dinius (17:35), of C/M/L; Josue Leos (17:59), of C/M/L; Anthony Wollum (17:59), of C/M/L and Ben Alberg (19:18), of TMB.
"We are led by eighth-grader Keiser Freetly, who has been getting better as the season has gone on and has broked the 18-minute barrier," LQPV/D-B head coach John Shurb said. "The team really has grown up nicely by placing second at the Camden Conference meet and by placing sixth at the Adrian Invitational. Two years ago, this team was just hoping to compete with other teams. Now, this team has been finishing in the top quarter of the meets this year."
Lakeview does not have a boys cross country team this season.
No. 8 Luverne, No. 9 Lac Qui Parle Valley/Dawson-Boyd and No. 10 Canby/Minneota/Lincoln HI are all ranked teams that will competing in the girls race. Favorites to win the Section 3 medal include Redwood Valley junior Kayla Huhnerkoch, who is ranked second among Class A individuals; Luverne freshman Madison Schandelmeier, who is rated third; Lac Qui Parle Valley/Dawson-Boyd junior Alaysia Freetly, who is ranked seventh; and Adrian senior Nicole Slater, who is rated eighth.
"Alaysia Freetly has had a strong season with breaking the 15-minute mark at the Milaca Invitational to win it. She has only been beaten in three races all year," Shurb said. "Kelly Kvaal has been a solid runner right behind Alaysia, running season bests under 15:40. The rest of our runners have rotated in and out throughout the season. That pack has been less than 45 seconds apart."
Area runners, with their season-best times in parenthesis, include Leah Jessen (15:19), of C/M/L; Natalie Dinius (15:42), of C/M/L; Cassandra Hook (15:43), of TMB; Emily Gillingham (16:09), of C/M/L; Sydney Sisk (16:23), of C/M/L; Kalli Jelen (16:23), of C/M/L; Sarita Hook (16:38), of TMB; Morgan Hoffbeck (17:11), of TMB; Rylee Klocow (18:27), of Lakeview; Kelsey Halvorson (18:29), of Lakeview; Maddie Fenske (19:01), of Lakeview; Hannah Jensen (19:18), of Lakeview; Skylar Louwagie (21:24), of Lakeview; Samantha Butterfield (21:28), of Lakeview; and Lissa Bertrand (22:44), of Lakeview.
NOTE: Statistics for runners from Murray County Central and Yellow Medicine East were not available before press time.