SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — A banner day for senior Eric Colvin was a bittersweet one for members of the Stillwater boys’ cross country team after placing fourth in Sunday’s Nike Cross Heartland Regional at Yankton Trails Park.
Just one week removed from winning its second straight state championship, Stillwater scored 135 points to place fourth and miss out on a return (all-expense paid) trip to Nike Nationals in Portland, Ore.
Demon XC Club (Bismarck, N.D.) scored 102 points to claim the regional title while Dowling Catholic XC Club (Iowa) followed in second at 113 to grab the two team bids up for grabs. Edina, which Stillwater defeated by 34 points at state, slipped into third place with a score of 131.
The Heartland Regional includes the best teams from Minnesota, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota and Wisconsin and the Ponies were considered one of the favorites while ranked eighth in the MileSplit national rankings and 10th in the National High School Coaches Association computer rankings. Since the event started in 2004, this marks the first time a Minnesota team failed to advance to nationals.
“I think it’s going to take a while to get over this,” Stillwater coach Scott Christensen said. “It was just too good of a team to end at that meet, and especially the way it did over that last mile.”
Competing in miserable conditions — 22 degrees with 25 mile per hour wind gusts — Colvin ran his best race of the season while placing fourth overall with a time of 15:32.02. Jake Leingang of Bismarck was the individual champion with a time of 15:16.04, followed by Danny Albada of Fremont (15:30.58) and Obsa Ali of Richfield (15:31.28).
The top five individuals not affiliated with a qualifying team advance to Nike Nationals, which are scheduled for Dec. 1.
“I’m not surprised at all by this,” Christensen said of Colvin’s performance. “It all goes back to the section meet where at two miles I thought he could win the section and at state I thought he looked better than anybody at two miles and I thought he can win state. He just had the look on Sunday and I thought that was a good sign.”
Stillwater’s No. 1 runner all season Wayde Hall did not fare as well while struggling to get on track early and finishing 43rd overall (24th for the purposes of team scoring). Hall had won seven of nine races this fall and finished second in the other two going into Sunday’s race.
The Ponies still had enough depth to overcome Hall’s uncharacteristic showing, but the rest of the lineup — other than Colvin and fellow senior Sean Bjork — didn’t run much better. Bjork finished two spots in front of Hall in 41st place with a time of 16:19.43.
“Colvin ran great and so did Sean Bjork,” Christensen said. “They had the two best races and Edoardo (Tagliaferri) had a pretty good race as well. We hit with three and didn’t hit with four.”
Bailey Hesse-Withbroe followed in 70th with a time of 16:40.29 and freshman Eli Krahn completed the scoring in 79th with a time of 16:45.49. Tagliarferri finished 121st with a time of 17:01.68 and Tayler Aarness was next in 216th with a time of 17:42.32.
Stillwater was leading at the two-mile mark with 82 points — a 36-point cushion over Bismarck and a 48-point lead over Dowling Catholic.
“I didn’t think we were great at any point, except for Colvin,” Christensen said. “They were not great going over the mat at the second mile mark, but when you have 14 state championship teams, many who are undefeated, you’re going to have a high score. When the scores flashed up I didn’t think anybody was going to make up 48 points on us over the last mile.”
1. Demon XC Club 102; 2. Dowling Catholic XC Club 113; 3. Edina XC Club 131; 4. Stillwater RC 135; 5. Perham XC Club 141; 6. Wayzata 177; 7. Hopkins 195; 8. Murphys 284; 9. Owatonna XC Club 317; 10. Team Fremont 320; 11. Patriots XC Club 375; 12. Linn-Mar RC 421; 13. Eastern Iowa Fighting Turtles 429; 14. Pleasant Valley XC 431; 15. Rosemount XC Club 433; 16. Killer Beez 441; 17. Johnston Dragoons XC Club 454; 18. Run Club 465; 19. Blue Streaks 524; 20. Running Orange 534; 21. Manhattan XC Club 554; 22. Laughing Waters 558; 23. The Wild Runners 567; 24. Millard West 601; 25. Minnetonka Track Club 623; 26. Valkyrie RC 628; 27. Pella Dutch 639; 28. Sneaky Snake RC 708; 29. Fargo Feat 739; 30. Dream Slayers 806; 31. Storm XC Club 844; 32. Comet Run Club 943.
1. Jake Leingang (Demon XC) 15:16.04; 2. Danny Aldaba (Fremont) 15:30.58; 3. Obsa Ali (Richfield) 15:31.28; 4. Eric Colvin (Stillwater) 15:32.02; 5. Ryan Kromer (Hudson) 15:32.30; 6. Connor Olson (Wayzata XC) 15:36.47; 7. Matthew Welch (Proctor) 15:37.06; 8. Kevin Docherty (Cretin-Derham Hall) 15:38.63; 9. Joe Harter (Millard West) 15:45.36; 10. Addison DeHaven (Brookings) 15:47.06.
4. (3) Eric Colvin 15:32.02; 41. (23) Sean Bjork 16:19.84; 43. (24) Wayde Hall 16:22.43; 70. (39) Bailey Hesse-Withbroe 16:40.29; 79. (46) Eli Krahn 16:45.49; 121. (73) Edoardo Tagliaferri 17:01.68; 216. (137) Tayler Aarness 17:42.32.