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No medals, but plenty of pride for state runners

There was a lot to smile about at the state cross-country meets Saturday in Northfield.

Individually, two Carlton County runners earned All-State recognition in the Class A boys race. Top honors went to Moose Lake-Willow River senior Ethan Olson, who took 11th place with a time of 16:24.4 in his final high school race.

"He's been fantastic," Rebels coach Adam Whelan said. Olson is the only runner Whelan has coached for all six seasons he's run the program.

"He's so disciplined, academically and in his running," Whelan said. "It's just been a joy to have him around.

"I'd be lucky to have another Ethan Olson to coach in my entire career," Whelan added. "What he's done has not only been good for himself. He's been a role model to everyone he's come in contact with. Everyone knows what he's done — the football players, the volleyball players, everyone. And he's such a great young man."

Olson narrowly missed a place on the medal stand, but leaves a legacy that will be hard to replace.

"Though it's true, I can point to Ethan in future years and say, 'if you want to be all-state, this is what you need to be like,'" Whelan said.

The other local all-state performer was Esko's Josh Kemp, who finished 24th in 16:45. His Eskomo teammate, Sam Rengo, finished 92nd in the field in 17:35.

Cameron Dickey of Cromwell-Wright also ran in the Class A race, finishing in 117th place in 17:52.7.

Only one Carlton County athlete, Cloquet freshman Lauren Cawcutt, ran in the girls competition. She finished 99th overall in the Class AA girls race in 19:56.3.

Cawcutt was part of a larger Cloquet contingent including the varsity boys team, which finished 16th overall.

"Yes, you look at it and say we were 16th in the field, but we graduated a ton of kids with experience last year and this is a huge achievement for our team," coach Mike Bushey said. "There are a lot of teams who would have loved to be in our position."

Individually, Aidan Ripp fought through a chest cold to finish 50th overall.

"That's a tough task, and a real limiting factor," Bushey said of Ripp's performance despite his illness. "At this level, that's just a killer. But at the end of the day, he didn't feel well and took top 50 in the state. I wish I could do that."

Other CEC runners included Blaine Bong (149th), Blake Desmond (152nd), Jordan Allen (158th) and Brady Hall (159th). Ethan Matzdorf and Jesse Bahen also ran varsity for Cloquet, but did not earn a team score.

"The thing we always talk about in cross-country is making it a memorable and positive experience," Bushey said. "We ran against the best in the state. We didn't have our greatest day, but the experience was super-fun. Having friends and families there was a great thing."

Bushey noted that after everyone else had left the course in Northfield, the Cloquet contingent remained, taking pictures and soaking up the moment.

"That's what matters," he said. "It was a heartfelt goodbye, that's for sure. What we want to do is learn from it so the kids can give themselves the opportunity in the future to get back there (to state) again. The second time around, it's completely different for most kids."

Cawcutt, who competed at state last year, was one to see that for herself.

"You can only go there and do the best you can," Bushey said. "Lauren was a little overwhelmed last year, but accomplished everything she set out to this season. I texted (2017 graduate) Anja Maijala after the race, who was getting ready to run her college section meet, and told her Lauren's time. She texted back, 'Of course. Year two is always better.'"

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