ST. PAUL — After falling just shy of an opportunity to run at state a year ago, Stillwater sophomore Abby Lange felt equal parts joy and relief while securing a trip to state this year while helping the Ponies to a fourth-place finish at the Section 4AA girls’ cross country meet.
Lange finished sixth in the individual standings with a time of 14:50.6 on the soft Les Bolstad Golf Course layout. Bethany Kozak of White Bear Lake was the individual champion with a time of 14:26.0.
“Amazing. I’m so happy and extremely excited,” Lange said. “It’s been building up all week so I’m glad it’s done now so I can relax.”
She did need it this year with the sixth-place finish, but one change this year is that each of the top eight finishers who are not on the two qualifying teams advance to state, unlike last fall when only runners in the top 10 qualified for state — regardless of how many of those spots were filled by runners on the champion and runner-up teams.
“Yeah, it was a little frustrating that it happened the year after, but I’m glad now that if it happened again I would have a chance to go anyway,” said Lange, who admitted last year’s disappointment helped push her during offseason training. “All summer I was focused on training for this day, so it paid off.”
The Ponies scored 144 points to place behind Suburban East Conference rivals East Ridge (53), Roseville (71) and White Bear Lake (115) in the team standings.
“I do think they put it together and ran great,” Ponies coach Dawn Podolske said. “At the start of the season I did say it was going to be a long, slow process and we’ve got some great competition we’ve gone against all season. They did run their best race as a team at the end of the season. The varsity and JV and the work this season will make us a better team a year from now.”
Maria Morley was Stillwater’s second finisher in 24th place with a time of 15:41.7 and Haley Beech followed in 35th in a time of 16:12.7. Ari Krenz (16:21.0) and Claire Patterson (16:23.3) closed out the scoring in 39th and 40th for the Ponies.
Stillwater’s other finishers were Lauren Lampright (16:28.4) and Emily Kiolbasa (17:07.2) in 42nd and 64th.
“We have a lot of seniors, whether they were running varsity or JV, we had 15 seniors with such great leadership and they have done a great job recruiting,” Podolske said. “It comes to an abrupt end and it’s tough for the kids, but they handled themselves well. They probably didn’t get PRs because it’s a championship course, but most walked away feeling pretty good about it.”
Most will also be on hand to watch Lange at the state meet at St. Olaf College in Northfield on Nov. 3. The girls’ race will start at 2 p.m.
“(Lange) is a great kid, a sweet kick and a hard worker,” Podolske said. “I was so happy and I think her teammates were happy for her, too.”
n Stillwater placed third in Wednesday’s JV race with 64 points, placing behind East Ridge (32) and Roseville (37).
Cela Peterson led the Ponies with a fifth-place finish in a time of 16:28.5 and Cassie Willaert followed in seventh at 16:36.9. Completed the scoring for the Ponies were Fiona Montie (16:58.0) in 14th, Elise Buchman (17:09.4) in 17th and Bria Eder-Zdechlik (17:14.2) in 21st.
1. East Ridge 53; 2. Roseville 71; 3. White Bear Lake 115; 4. Stillwater 144; 5. Mahtomedi 191; 6. North St. Paul 197; 7. Woodbury 201; 8. St. Anthony 204; 9. St. Paul Highland Park 207; 10. St. Paul Central 258; 11. Cretin-Derham Hall 269; 12. Hill-Murray 297; 13. Tartan 319; 14. St. Paul Como Park 358; 15. St. Paul Harding 476.
1. Bethany Kozak (WBL) 14:26.0; 2. Emily Betz (ER) 14:33.6; 3. Caroline Brisbois (Ros) 14:35.4; 4. Bailey Ness (ER) 14:37.7; 5. Jane Baude (NSP) 14:47.7; 6. Abby Lange (St) 14:50.6; 7. Patty O’Brien (NSP) 14:51.7; 8. Anna Maurer (H-M) 14:52.3; 9. Allison Ternes (WBL) 14:56.8; 12. Erika Nolby (Tar) 15:12.2; 13. Elana Breitenbucher (SPHP) 15:13.1.
6. Abby Lange 14:50.6; 24. Maria Morley 15:41.7; 35. Haley Beech 16:12.7; 39. Ari Krenz 16:21.0; 40. Claire Patterson 16:23.3; 42. Lauren Lampright 16:28.4; 64. Emily Kiolbasa 17:07.2.