Two years ago, at the start of John Maresh’s second season as coach of the Prior Lake boys’ cross-country team, the program was in a 21-year state meet drought.
At the start of this season, the Lakers are poised to make a run at their third consecutive state meet berth.
Coming off eighth-place finishes in both the 2014 and 2015 state meets, the Lakers, who had only one senior among their top seven runners last fall, are ranked No. 5 in the Class 2A preseason poll. Wayzata is ranked No. 1, followed by Edina, Centennial and Stillwater.
“John has brought two things to the program,” Prior Lake activities director Russ Reetz said. “The first is consistency between the track and field [Maresh is the distance coach] and cross-country programs. Second, is the attitude that distance running is cool. The biggest change has been getting the commitment to do the miles in the offseason. It has spread from one athlete to the next.”
Maresh, who works in Prior Lake High School’s IT department, was an assistant coach at Rosemount and Lakeville North before joining the Prior Lake staff.
The Lakers are led by a trio of seniors — Colin Dwyer, Devon Genrick and Thomas Vallez — who have run in the past two state meets. Seniors Owen Kilanowski and Noah Torvik and junior Nicholas Kartschoke, members of last year’s state meet team, also return.
Dwyer finished 19th at the state meet last fall and had a successful track and field season last spring. Dwyer finished fourth in the 800 at the Class 2A state meet.
“We’re building off the most successful cross-country season and track and field season in school history,” Reetz said. “Now, the school is excited about those programs.”
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The Farmington girls’ cross-country team is ranked No. 4 in the Class 2A preseason poll.
Last season, with three freshmen and two seventh-graders leading the way, the Tigers finished in eighth place in their first state meet since 1989. The eighth-place finish tied for their best in seven state meet appearances.
“All of the core five runners are returning this season except Josie Laube, who is out for the season with an injury,” Tigers coach Heidi Revels said. “There are a few new runners that have the potential for making the top seven as well this year, and we are working hard towards another team run at state. With great summer training, a young team and continued good health, I think we can get there again.”
Lauren Peterson, a freshman last year, and Anna Fenske, a seventh-grader last year, are ranked in the top five of the preseason individual power rankings.
Peterson, who finished sixth at last year’s state meet, is ranked No. 2 in the Class 2A preseason individual poll while Fenske, who finished ninth at last year’s state meet, is ranked No. 5.
Sophomore Anna Poldichuk and eighth-grader Kelsey Thelen also return from last year’s state meet team.
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Shakopee is ranked No. 5 in the Class 2A girls’ cross country preseason poll.
The Sabers, with two juniors, a freshman and three eighth-graders finishing as their top six runners, took seventh at last year’s state meet.
The Sabers are led by senior Tess Misgen, who finished 20th at last year’s state meet. Misgen is among the top 16 runners mentioned in the individual power rankings.
Freshmen Abby Meger, Isabel Meger and Kenzie Misgen and senior Carri Anderson return from last year’s state meet team.