The La Crescent-Hokah Lancer Cross Country team got its COVID-shortened 2020 season underway on Sept. 1 at Plainview’s Piper Hills Golf Course for a three-team meet with the host PEM Bulldogs and Grand Meadow/Leroy-Ostrander/Southland.
As if competing with restricted fields of a maximum of three teams was not strange enough, a further oddity occurred when PEM and La Crescent-Hokah wound up with identical first-place scores — not only in the boys competition, but in the girls race, too.
Even with race distances shorted to 3,200 meters to allow runners who missed their entire track seasons last spring and had not competed since last fall to get back into competition, many of the runners overestimated their current fitness level and went charging off the starting line.
Fortunately, the Lancers displayed a maturity that belied their youth and inexperience and took a far more conservative approach to their first racing experience in months.
In the boys competition, Cody Kowalski stayed with the lead pack for much of the opening 1,000 meters, but the Lancer junior put a decisive move on the field and moved away quickly, running the final half of the race by himself en route to the first varsity race victory of his career with a time of 11:36.
Fellow junior Jack Redman wasn’t in the top 10 at the halfway point, but picked off runners with regularity and was closing quickly on his teammate at the end, finishing second in 11:46.
Sophomore Sam Culver also made a major move during the second half to place sixth in 12:05; soph first-time runner Samuel Petersen was 10th in 12:45 and freshman Austin Smith placed 12th in 12:54 to complete the scoring for the Lancers.
When team scores were tabulated, both PEM and La Crescent-Hokah had identical 31 point totals, with GMLOS in third with 67.
In cross country, tie scores are broken by comparing the sixth finishers for both teams, so soph Jack Kreutzman’s 13th place finish in 12:57 bettered PEM’s sixth runner by one place to secure the season-opening win for the Lancers.
The girls race was almost a carbon copy of the boys, as hordes of PEM and GMLOS runners streamed past the 1,600 meter split point with only Lancer junior Lydia Rosendahl sitting in fourth place and no other Lancer in the top 10.
Just past that point, Rosendahl emulated Kowalski’s move and steadily pulled away from the field to earn her first win of her career, crossing the finish line in 13:57.
Senior Ashley Muenzenberger led a major move by the Lancer secondary pack by moving all the way up to third place in 14:49 by race’s end, while soph Autumn Rabe was just behind in fifth place at 14:56; Junior Julia Lechnir, 11th in 15:21, and soph Emma Stavenau, 13th in 15:29, completed LC-H’s effort, as the Lancers ran with just five competitors.
As with the boys race, the Lancers and PEM had matching scores of 33 and GMLOS was third with 67. Because they did not have a sixth finisher, by virtue of having more than five finishers, PEM was granted the team win over LC-H in their inaugural outing of 2020.
Top finishers for the Lancers in Junior High competition were eighth grader Joey Welch, who placed second over 1,600 meters in a time of 6:20 in the boys race, while in the girls race, seventh grader Corrina Lechnir was fifth in 7:01 and eighth grader Jazmine Cline seventh in 7:26.
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