ST. PAUL — Although it seemed little more than a formality at this point, the Stillwater boys’ cross country team took the first step towards defending its state championship with Wednesday’s victory in soggy conditions at the Section 4AA meet at the University of Minnesota’s Les Bolstad Golf Course.
The Ponies, who have won seven straight races since losing by Wayzata by one point in the season opener, scored 26 points to easily outdistance runner-up White Bear Lake (91) and third-place Cretin-Derham Hall (102). The Bears earned the second team bid for state, which will be held at St. Olaf College in Northfield on Nov. 3. The Class AA boys’ race will begin at 1 p.m.
“I was happy with the day, but I think we’ll need more to win the state,” Christensen said. “That’s what sports is, you just have to beat who’s in front of you today and we did that in very convincing fashion.”
Wayde Hall pulled away from Cretin-Derham Hall’s Kevin Docherty for the individual title on Wednesday, covering the challenging 5,000-meter course in 15:37.9. It was the third straight race that Hall has edged Docherty (15:39.7), who is No. 3 in the individual state rankings.
It was the sixth victory in eight races this season for Hall, who finished second at the season-opening Marshfield Columbus Invite and was also the runner-up at the Chaska Lions Invitational.
With five runners in the top 10, Stillwater could have raced against the remaining 14 teams and would still have won Wednesday’s race. Even if you take out top runners Hall and Eric Colvin, the Ponies would have still won by a comfortable margin.
“It played out just as well as anyone could have hoped,” Hall said. “We had five in the top 10 and it just was a great race overall.”
“Our team and myself have all the confidence we could have going into the state meet,” Hall said. “I think it’s looking to be good for the state meet.”
He followed last year’s teammate Tom Linner in claiming the individual section crown for Stillwater.
“It definitely means a lot, especially with the previous winners and their status, and Tom of course won last year,” Hall said. “It’s the last step before state so you’re really racing everybody at their best, so yeah, it definitely means a lot.”
Colvin placed third for the Ponies with a time of 15:53.4 and Sean Bjork followed in fifth place at 16:11.2. Sophomore Bailey Hesse-Withroe continued his strong season with a seventh-place finish in 16:15.3 and freshman Eli Krahn closed out the scoring in 10th place with a time of 16:27.3.
“Colvin ran outstanding,” Hall said. “He was with us the majority of the race and helped push the pace as it went on in the middle. The race in the beginning was slow, but then it got cooking after the first mile. Sean Bjork also was up in the lead pack and he ran terrific.”
Senior Matt Fronczak also ran well while crossing the line in 16:35.5 and Tayler Aarness followed in 16th place with a time of 16:51.7.
“I’m a sports fan, I love sports, and it’s the best reality show out there and you still have to always play the game, but it never once crossed my mind that we could not win this thing tonight,” Christensen said. “Any time you score in the 20s, it’s a fantastic day — 30s is still great, to score in the 20s, I’ll take that.”
n Stillwater wasn’t quite perfect in the JV race, but came close while scoring 17 points in a victory over runner-up Rosemount (58) and third-place White Bear Lake (69).
The Ponies featured the top four finishers and seven of the top nine. Matt Thomas (16:39.8), Allen-Michael Burback (16:46.8), Edoardo Tagliaferri (17:18.7) and Paul Larson (17:31.7) finished first through fourth to lead Stillwater while Tim Koennig (17:37.6) and Luke Richie (17:39.2) followed in sixth and seventh. Alex Percival placed ninth in a time of 17:42.2.
1. Stillwater 26; 2. White Bear Lake 91; 3. Cretin-Derham Hall 102; 4. Woodbury 151; 5. St. Paul Central 162; 6. Roseville 164; 7. Mahtomedi 204; 8. East Ridge 205; 9. St. Paul Highland Park 245; 10. North St. Paul 264; 11. St. Paul Como Park 274; 12. St. Anthony 309; 13. Hill-Murray 364; 14. Tartan 367; 15. St. Paul Harding 498.
Top 5 (individual state qualifiers)
1. Wayde Hall (St) 15:37.9; 2. Kevin Docherty (C-DH) 15:39.7; 3. Eric Colvin (St) 15:53.4; 4. Nate Roese (ER) 16:01.5; 5. Sean Bjork (St) 16:11.2; 6. Jared Bartz (WBL) 16:12.3; 8. Jacob McDermott (C-DH) 16:16.5; 9. Ahmed Bule (SPC) 16:18.5; 11. Tahir Hashim (SPCP) 16:33.9; 13. Evan Kacmarynski (Ros) 16:38.2; 14. Nick Wareham (Wo) 16:38.9; 15. Marshal Landrum (SPCP) 16:44.2.
1. Wayde Hall 15:37.9; 3. Eric Colvin 15:53.4; 5. Sean Bjork 16:11.2; 7. Bailey Hesse-Withroe (St) 16:15.3; 10. Eli Krahn (St) 16:27.3; 12. Matt Fronczak (St) 16:35.5; 16. Tayler Aarness (St) 16:51.7.