NORTHFIELD, MINN. – Grabbing his mobile phone for verification, girls’ cross-country coach Matt Gabrielson suspected Edina’s rich athletics tradition just got richer.
Sure enough, Edina’s athletics web page boasted “156 state championships.” Make that 157, with a Class 2A team title added, the first for either of the school’s cross-country programs.
The Hornets’ took four of the top 12 spots among team competitors and earned a 68 to 76 victory over runner-up Marshall. Willmar, with 119 points, placed third Saturday at St. Olaf College.
Both the Class 2A and 1A girls’ races were run for the first time at the 5,000-meter distance. Minnesota increased the previous race length by 1,000 meters this fall, bringing the state into line with most of the country.
Second a year ago, Edina benefited from the emergence of freshmen Maria Rickman and Liesl Schreiner.
“To be the state champs for the first time in Edina history, boys or girls, is amazing,” said Rickman, who led all Hornets and placed 10th overall with a time of 18 minutes, 21.8 seconds.
Unable to crack the varsity track and field lineup as an eighth-grader last spring, Rickman dominated middle-school distance races and stayed hungry for success in the fall.
“She’s quiet and unassuming but has that killer instinct inside,” Gabrielson said.
An often interchangeable Edina lineup saw Rickman place first, followed by sophomore Emily Kompelien, Schreiner and juniors Amanda Mosborg and Tate Sweeney.
Mosborg, Edina’s top runner at state last fall, said the team’s victory was paramount. The acceptance of new faces, combined with torrid workouts, brought the Hornets’ championship dream into focus.
“It’s all for one,” Gabrielson said. “It’s a tight group with no drama.”
Perhaps no running duo shared a bond stronger than Alexandria identical twins Bethany and Megan Hasz. The senior siblings paced the field for a third consecutive year.
Bethany, who won in 2013, triumphed with a mark of 17:32.2 and took the rubber match against 2014 winner Megan.
Megan felt fortunate to race as nagging injuries wiped out a large chunk of her season. Still, she finished within seven seconds of her sister. They will run at Minnesota next fall.
“We’re competitive against anyone, even each other,” Bethany said. “But we’re still best friends at the end of the day. Me beating her isn’t going to change that.”
Class 2A boys: Hopkins wins
On the boys’ side, Hopkins fulfilled its top billing and won its first state title since 2002. Junior Seth Eliason (15:41.8) led the way, with seniors Owen Hoeft, Jack Henschel, Hunter Staack and Sam Branson all placing in the top-12 among team competitors.
For Henschel, classmates with his fellow seniors since elementary school, a memorable finish required all the mental toughness he could muster.
Diagnosed with bronchitis after the section meet, Henschel used medication, rest and the power of positive thinking to reach the start line Saturday.
“I knew I wasn’t going to let something like a stupid cold determine the end of my high school season,” he said.
The Royals’ score of 34 points put them well ahead of fellow Section 6 representative Minneapolis Washburn (67). The Millers, back in their first state meet since 1969, enjoyed the best finish in program history.
Wayzata senior Jaret Carpenter won the individual race in 15:26.5, making his program proud even though the Trojans team did not advance to state for a chance at a third consecutive title.
“A lot of the guys were out here cheering me on,” said Carpenter, Wayzata’s third state champion in the past five seasons. “That’s what really got me to push toward the end of the race.”
Runner-up Micah Mather, a senior at Highland Park, posted the best finish by a St. Paul public school runner since the race increased to 5,000 meters in 1979.
Class 1A: A first for seventh-grader
In Class 1A, Grace Ping of Winona Cotter posted a winning time of 17:52, 50.7 seconds ahead of the field.
Ping, according to the Minnesota State High School League, is the first seventh-grader, regardless of gender or class, to win a state championship in this meet.
Perham won the team title.
In the boys’ competition, junior Zack Emery of La Crescent won with a 16:07.8 mark. Mora repeated as team champion.