Moving up a notch from a year ago, the Mankato Loyola/Cleveland cross country team took 15th of 16 teams at the state cross country meet, held at the College of St Olaf in Northfield on Saturday.
The Crusaders edged out conference rival LCWM/Nicollet by 15 points, the team that beat them the subsection, and overall, their top five shaved off 3:55 from their combined state 2021 time.
“We had a better effort than last year, and our times were all better,” said head coach Dale Compton. “That was the thing we really wanted to do. Last year they really wanted to just be here. This year they wanted to be more competitive.”
Nathan Strobel (above) led the Crusaders with a 17:49.8 finish for 56th place among the team runners and 101st place overall. The winning time among the 160 runners was a blistering 15:49.
The junior improved his time by almost a minute from a year ago, when he was beat up over the 3.1 miles.
“Nathan ran very well compared to eighth grade when he was near the back because he had twisted his ankle, and then last year it wasn’t a great race for him, but this year he really stepped it up and ran well,” Compton said. “He got into the 17s, and that is what he was really hoping for today.”
“I couldn’t ask for a better day,” said Strobel. “The first mile was flat and fast. I was not expecting it to be that fast, but it was because of the crowd and the adrenaline. I tried to cancel out the noise, but it was too loud. After the second mile I PRd at about 11:08. It was fast too. The third mile was the hardest because we had a big hill in the woods.”
James Young, a senior, clung directly behind Strobel for a 17:51.4 finish. He ran a strong race, but Strobel was able pull out front a half mile or so from the finish line.
“He passed me up the hill, but I passed him on the downhill.”
Freshman Soren Kelly was 66th overall with a 17:57.6. Sophomore Sam Vetter was 71st with a 18:08.2, and junior Jorden Rossow came in 83rd with a 18:28.5.
“Jorden has really been coming on this year,” Compton said. “Early in the year he was one of our JV runners, and the last section and today at state he was our number five, so he was scoring in both meets, and it is nice to see him get stronger as the year went on.”
Prodding at the Crusader to five, freshman Corbin Deichman was 102nd with a 19:16.0, and senior Carter Zimmerman 104th with a 19:23.6.
A year ago, the Crusaders finished last of 16 teams. Younge paced Loyola/Cleveland then with an 18:26.20 finish for 72nd place. Rossow was second for the Crusaders (18:35.93), Deichman was third (18:38.54), Vetter was fourth (18.44.53), and Strobel was fifth (18:47.47). In reserve, Kelly ran the course in 19:36.95, and TJ Waldron finished in 20:32.67.
The Crusaders lose the two seniors next year but should return strong next fall. Their two alternates at the state meet (Kyle Zimmerman and Chase Kijenski) are sophomores, and they also have Waldron and Andrew Bulboltz, who have been running with them, Compton said.
“It’s quite a bit coming back, but it’s always hard losing our seniors. Last year we didn’t have any seniors, so it is a little tough, especially those who have been on the team for a few years.”
“We didn’t have the race we wanted, but we will be back next year,” Strobel said. “We’re going to put the miles in. We’re going to run in the winter. We’re going to have a great track season with James being our senior, and next year we’re going to return even better.”
Jorden Rossow (on the right) at around the midway point. At left is teammate Sam Vetter.
The state boys cross country team. L-R. front row: Kyle Zimmerman, Sam Vetter Nathan Strobel, Corbin Deichman and Soren Kelly. Back row: assistant coach Alex Nuy, Jorden Rossow, Carter Zimmerman, James Younge, Chase Kijenski and head coach Dale Compton.
Despite having a game to go to state later on Saturday, Chloe Anderson, Ava Hahn and Greta Hahn made the trip to Northfield to support the Crusaders.