Cloquet, Esko boys teams take first at HIbbing
The annual Hibbing Rotary cross-country meet attracted teams from all over the area last Thursday — and on a muddy day for running on the Iron Range, the wet weather actually brought out the best in some Carlton County runners.
Duluth East's powerful team nearly swept the board in Class AA girls' competition, with team score of 23. Fifteen is a perfect team score in cross-country, occurring when a team's top five runners finish in the top five places.
Greyhounds went 1-4-5-6-7 in the girls race — but sandwiched between them was Cloquet freshman Lauren Cawcutt, who finished third in 20:39.7. Junior Kelly Lorenz was 12th, senior Audrey Phillips 14th, senior Franny Slater 16th and junior Elise Pickar 21st to give Cloquet a very credible score of 66 and a solid second place.
"I thought we all ran well," Cloquet coach Mike Bushey said. "We were running something like our third meet in a week so you're dealing with tired legs, bodies and minds."
The Cloquet boys were nearly as good as East's girls, finishing 1-2-5-9-11 for a team score of 28. Junior Aiden Ripp raced through the course in 17:37, finishing 16 seconds ahead of teammate Blaine Bong. Sophomore Jordan Allen was fifth, senior Blake Desmond was ninth and junior Brady Hall was 11th. All seven varsity runners placed in the top 25 overall.
"They were really good," Bushey said, repeating himself in just the right way from a Lumberjack point of view. "I think it's really good how the kids have been applying themselves and working hard at a difficult point in the season."
In the Class A girls' race, all the other Carlton County schools were represented. Moose Lake/Willow River finished sixth with a team score of 162 points followed by Esko (10th), Carlton (13th), Wrenshall (15th), and Cromwell-Floodwood (17th). Rebel sophomore Coriella Sheets was the top area finisher, taking 11th place in 21:59.2.
The Eskomos used a solid overall day from their runners to finish in the middle of the pack. Senior Danelle Helberg was 25th to be Esko's top finisher.
Coach Jerimy Hallsten was impressed with how the runners handled the conditions. "It got very muddy on the course," he said. "It didn't stop raining until five minutes before the varsity races and the kids handled it well. You do worry about injuries running on sloppy ground and they do happen."
The Eskomo boys won the team competition with a team score of 40 — but Moose Lake senior Ethan Olson had to settle for second place in a very competitive individual race.
Olson was second to Greenway phenom Geno Uhrbom. The freshman won the race in 16:52.5, beating Olson by 26 seconds.
"Uhrbom is a great talent," Hallsten said. "You're going to be hearing about him for a long time in running circles. You can see he has such great natural ability and he works hard."
But Hallsten's boys took the measure of Greenway in the team department. The Eskomos finished 4-6-7-9-13 in scoring runners with senior Josh Kemp finishing fourth and junior Sam Rengo sixth. Junior Luke Bourgeault was eighth and senior Cameron Schultz was ninth. Senior Isaiah Arntson took 13th to complete Esko's team totals.
"We did do very well, especially considering this was our third meet in seven days," Hallsten said. "It's very good to see where we stack up against the other county teams and section opponents late in the season."
Among other Carlton County schools, Moose Lake/Willow River was fifth, Cromwell-Floodwood eighth, Carlton 17th, Wrenshall 19th and Fond du Lac 20th.
Virtually all the local teams are preparing for Saturday's massive Swain Invitational in Duluth. The forecast is good and that's a bit unusual for what has been a water-logged season.
"We've seen everything in our seasons from 80 degrees to pouring rain to snow," Bushey said. "You have to be ready for anything."
Hallsten likes the challenge his team will face but hopes for some sunshine Saturday. "It's such a huge event," he said. "But we're hoping for good weather. At Hibbing I think the only places that weren't wet were the tops of the tee boxes on the golf course. You know it's a muddy course when kids finish their race and start looking for clean water puddles so they can wash off."
"It's a spectacle," Bushey added about Swain. "You get off the bus and it's almost literally a line of buses a mile long to get to the course. It's huge and there's such tradition there. We're looking forward to it."