Peterson paces Cloquet boys cross-country teamEighth-grader Maijala leads the girls
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
Standing 6-foot-5, Aaron Peterson poses a threat on any area basketball court. That is, until the Cloquet senior takes a shot.
“I’m terrible,” said the 17-year-old, admitting he plays occasionally with friends. “The only thing I could probably do is dunk the ball.”
A ball doesn’t exist in Peterson’s favorite sport – cross country running –as the long-legged, 170-pound speedster has heightened the Lumberjacks’ boys team to their best season in recent memory.
Peterson paced Cloquet to a 2-3-4 finish en route to winning the Class AA division at the Proctor Lions Invitational Tuesday in Proctor. Completing the 5,000-meter course in 17 minutes, 1 second, Peterson placed second, only behind Duluth East’s Keaton Long, as teammates Dylan Marvel and Isaac Boedigheimer took third and fourth place.
Tuesday’s team victory came on top of the Lake Superior Conference championship the Lumberjacks secured last week for the first time in a decade, according to Cloquet Coach Mike Bushey. Such success hasn’t always been there for the Lumberjacks, or Peterson.
A runner since seventh grade, Peterson dominated middle school races. Yet when he shifted to the varsity team in high school, times were tough.
“In ninth and 10th grade I kind of went downhill,” Peterson said. “My times weren’t as good and I wasn’t improving as much as everyone else. I just told myself to keep working and that my time would come.”
Maturing into his lengthy body, Peterson helped pilot Cloquet this fall with fellow varsity runners Marvel, Boedigheimer, Jace Anderson, Erik Swanson, Luke Heine and Sam Jorgenson.
“You could tell there were times where he was frustrated, but he never quit on himself or gave up,” Bushey said, noting that Peterson bettered his times by almost two minutes within a year. “He started to grow into his body and has had success. And he’s only getting better.”
Jorgenson said Peterson bettered himself – in addition to adjusting to his height – with dedicated offseason training. Also teammates in track, Jorgenson said his friend ran a multitude of miles throughout the summer.
“I think he only missed five days; I know he was out there more than I was,” Jorgenson said. “He took his summer training seriously.”
The last time Jorgenson beat his classmate in a race was in 2010.
“I wasn’t the best, but our times back then were the same,” Jorgenson said. “He got so tall and now has gotten used to his height. I can always count on Aaron to be up there in the front of every race.”
Racing runs in the Peterson family. His older sister, Halee, ran to state cross country in 2010 and now runs collegiately. His father, Tom, was a track star and mother, Heidi, was a competitive swimmer.
“I love running, I’ve done it since I was little and it has always been one of my priorities,” Peterson said. “Last year I was running in the 18s [minutes], now I’m in the 16s. It’s been a great season, for all of us.”
Cloquet eighth-grader Anja Maijala won the Class AA girls division Tuesday with a 4,000-meter time of 15:37.5. She and her teammates will compete in the Section 7AA meet Thursday, Oct. 25, in Princeton. The Cloquet boys, if running fast, are expected to be state contenders.
“It’d be great to have some success at sections; it’s a great group of kids – especially the seniors – who have stuck with it,” Bushey said. “Every team needs that consistent stability. If our kids run well, we should probably be in the mix, but there are no guarantees.”
Much like Peterson’s basketball shot.