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Cross country: Stocke back where he belongs by winning Section 7AA boys title

Rock Ridge junior had to overcome broken ankle suffered right after the track season ended last June.

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Rock Ridge’s Cameron Stocke nears his first place finish in the Section 7AA boys’ cross-country meet Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021. Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

CLOQUET — Rock Ridge junior Cameron Stocke was all smiles after crossing the finish line at the Section 7AA cross country championships Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021, at Cloquet Country Club.

This wasn’t as much about finishing first as it was about the journey to get there. After winning the Class A 1,600 meters last June in a blistering 4 minutes, 12.94 seconds, missing the state meet record by less than a second, Stocke chipped a bone in his left ankle playing basketball the day he got back.

Stocke’s ankle was in a boot for six weeks.

“I was injured all summer,” Stocke said. “ I couldn’t do any running, I couldn’t do any cross training, so I finally feel like I’m back.”

Stocke finished the 5,000-meter Cloquet Country Club course in 16 minutes, 13.1 seconds, to win his first section cross country title after being the proverbial bridesmaid to four-time champion Geno Uhrbom, a Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin standout who is now running at the University of North Dakota.

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Stocke turned on the speed late to win easily over teammate Aaron Nelson (16:41.8) and Cloquet junior Miles Fischer (16:49.1) as Rock Ridge held off the Lumberjacks for the boys team title in the first year of the cross country co-op between Virginia and Eveleth-Gilbert.

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Lexi Lamppa of Rock Ridge runs near pines during the Section 7AA girls’ cross-country meet Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021. She won the race. Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

Rock Ridge eighth-grader Lexi Lamppa (19:10.8) held off Duluth Denfeld junior Grace McCormick (19:57.4) to win the Section 7AA girls race, while Lexi’s twin sister, Maija, was third in 20:01.7 on a perfect day for running, with a high temperature close to 50 degrees, overcast skies and hardly any wind.

While cross country is a different animal than track, with more variables at play, Lamppa’s time Thursday was a personal record for five kilometers by a whopping 50 seconds.

“Incredible — very crazy,” Lexi Lamppa said. “It was awesome.”

This is the first year of three classes for Minnesota cross country and that allowed the likes of Cloquet and Hibbing, which outpaced North Shore to win the girls team title.

“This is different with the three-class system,” Stocke said. “The section is a lot smaller, but this still feels amazing,” Stocke said. “I came into the season definitely not where I wanted to be but it finally feels like I’m over the hump a little bit. This really gives me a lot of confidence going into the state meet.”

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The top two teams and top six individuals not on those teams advance to the state meet Nov. 6 at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota.

  • The Section 7AA boys coaches of the year are Rock Ridge head coach Chris Ismil and North Shore assistant Dan Hebl and the girls coaches of the year are Proctor head coach Lowell Harnell and Hibbing assistant Serena Sullivan.

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Mountain Iron-Buhl’s Jeffrey Kayfes, from the left, Esko’s Nathaniel Rengo, and Cromwell-Wright’s Noah Foster lead the pack part way through the boys’ Section 7A cross-country meet Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021. Foster won the race, Kayfes finished second, and Rengo fifth. Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

Foster wins in a breeze, Burckhardt comes on strong

Shortly after Noah Foster crossed the finish line Thursday at the Section 7A boys cross country meet, a longtime Iron Range scribe said, “You should go for another loop. You don’t look tired.”

Yeah, Foster is that good.

While Foster won going away, cruising to the victory in 16:33.4, the Cromwell-Wright junior insisted it wasn’t as easy as it looked.

“I gave it everything I had,” Foster said.

Mountain Iron-Buhl senior Jeffrey Kayfes was second in 16:56.9 and Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin senior Connor Thoennes was third in 17:11.5 as the Titans topped Esko to win their fourth straight Section 7A title while qualifying for the state meet for the seventh straight year. That’s quite a run.

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“Sure proud of my kids,” GNK coach Will Floersheim said.

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South Ridge’s Addison Burckhardt nears a first place finish in the girls 7A section cross-country meet Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021, in Cloquet. She had a time of 19:54.8. Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

South Ridge freshman Addison Burckhardt came on strong to win the Class A girls race in 19:54.8, becoming the Panthers’ first section cross country champion, with Ely seventh-grader Molly Brophy a close second in 19:57.7. Burckhardt’s twin brother Alex also qualified for the state meet with a 10th-place finish in his race Thursday.

Carlton/Wrenshall, which got an eighth-place finish from seventh grader Brielle Simula, took the girls team title while South Ridge, which also got a seventh from sophomore Evelyn Brodeen, also advanced as a team with a second-place finish.

This is Foster’s third time qualifying for the state meet. Last year he took third “in the COVID year” as he called it, with Uhrbom and Stocke going 1-2 when Section 7A was regarded as the best in the state. Those runners never got to race at the state meet due to the pandemic, so we have to go back two years to the only time Foster got that opportunity, and it was a disaster.

Foster finished 117th in 17:42.7.

While that simply wasn’t a good race for him it does give one an idea about his meteoric rise in the running ranks. His coming-out party was in the Class A 3,200 last June when he finished eighth in 9:48.50, lopping about 19 seconds off his personal record.

“That was a confidence boost,” said Foster, whose only loss this season was at the Milaca Mega Meet, when he finished second to Milbank, South Dakota, star Nick Batchelor.

Now, he has a simple goal for next week.

“To win,” he said.

  • This is the last year the section meets will be at Cloquet Country Club; Mora and Hibbing have been kicked around as possible locations for Section 7AA and Grand View Golf Course for Section 7A but it’s real preliminary at this point.

Section 7AA Championships

At Cloquet Country Club

(Top two teams advance to state meet plus next six individuals)

Boys

Teams

1. Rock Ridge, 47; 2. Cloquet, 63; 3. Proctor, 94; 4. North Shore, 122; 5. Hibbing, 134; 6. Grand Rapids, 146; 7. Pine City, 171; 8. Mora, 173; 9. Duluth Denfeld, 181; 10. Hermantown, 274; 11. North Branch, 339.

Individuals

1. Cameron Stocke, RR, 16 minutes, 13.1 seconds; 2. Aaron Nelson, RR, 16:41.8; 3. Miles Fischer, Cloq., 16:49.1; 4. Jake Mertz, Cloq., 17:07.4; 5. Josh Knight, Proc., 17:10.5; 6. Nate Bilben, NS, 17:11.8; 7. Austin Hanson, GR, 17:12.6; 8. Sam Buytaert, Cloq. 17:16.3; 9. Nate Johnson, Mora, 17:17.9; 10. Jack Kendall, RR, 17:22.8; 11. Ian Thorpe, NS, 17:24.4; 12. Alex Williams, Mora, 17:42.9; 16. Anthony Hecimovich, RR, 17:59.7; 18. John Kendall, RR, 18:10.1; 20. Connor Matschiner, RR, 18:13.1; 21. Cale Prosen, Cloq., 18:16.9; 27. Calvin Snesrud, Cloq., 18:29.6; 40. Ben Sanders, Cloq., 18:56.1; 41. Alex Zegan, Cloq., 18:59.1; 42. Jared Delich, RR, 19:01.4.

Girls

Teams

1. Hibbing, 58; 2. North Shore, 70, 3. Proctor, 73; 4. Rock Ridge, 73; 5. Cloquet, 128; 6. Pine City, 173; 7. Grand Rapids, 186; 8. Mora, 235; 9. Duluth Denfeld, 250; 10. Hermantown, 257; 11. North Branch, 263.

Individuals

1. Lexi Lamppa, RR, 19:10.8; 2. Grace McCormick, DD, 19:57.4; 3. Maija Lamppa, RR, 20:01.7; 4. Olya Wright, NS, 20:06.2; 5. Abigail Theien, Hib., 20:11.3; 6. Lizzy Harnell, Proc., 20:12.2; 7. Della Bettendorf, Proc., 20:14.0; 8. Autumn Smith, NS, 20:21.7; 9. Elise Cawcutt, Cloq, 20:28.9; 10. Lamar Gordon, NS, 20:31.5; 11. Mileena Sladek, Hib., 20:34.9; 12. Gianna Figueroa, Hib., 20:36.9; 13. Jorie Anderson, Hib., 20:39.1; 17. Audra Murden, Hib., 20:56.5; 22. Anna Hay, NS, 21:22.5; 25. Reese Aune, Hib., 21:31.3; 26. Jocelyn Carr, NS, 21:31.5; 27. Avery Kukowski, Hib., 21:32.4; 31. London Smith, NS, 21:52.4; 35. Trinity Giddings, NS, 22:07.2.

Section 7A Championships

At Cloquet Country Club

(Top two teams advance to state meet plus next six individuals)

Boys

Teams

1. Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin, 48; 2. Esko, 70; 3. Moose Lake-Willow River/Barnum, 96; 4. Ely, 134; 5. South Ridge, 137; 6. Mesabi East, 198; 7. Cromwell-Wright, 229; 8. Mountain Iron-Buhl, 240; 9. Pine River-Backus, 246; 10. Crosby-Ironton, 251; 11. Carlton/Wrenshall, 266; 12. Deer River-Northland, 285; 13. International Falls, 296; 14. Chisholm, 368.

Individuals

1. Noah Foster, Crom.-Wr., 16:33.4; 2. Jeffrey Kayfes, MIB, 16:56.9; 3. Connor Thoennes, GNK, 17:11.5; 4. Daniel Olson, GNK, 17:17.9; 5. Nathaniel Rengo, Esko, 17:18.9; 6. Jack Riley, Carl./Wren., 17:21.6; 7. Michael Cornell, Esko, 17:38.4; 8. Joseph Mikrot, MLWRB, 17:40.4; 9. Shawn Bailey, MLWRB, 17:40.4; 10. Alex Burckhardt, SR, 17:42.2; 11. Riley Koran, GNK, 17:46.6; 12. Jack McWilliams, Esko, 17:54.6; 13. Benjamin Meysembourg, Esko, 17:55.2; 14. Levi Danielson, GNK, 17:58.8; 16. Ben Plackner, GNK, 18:02.9; 17. Brayden Nielsen, GNK, 18:06.4; 26. Hayden Clow, GNK, 18:39.1; 34. Alec Halvorson, Esko, 19:00.8; 51. Zach Erkkila, Esko, 20:02.3; 61. Chad Hart, Esko, 20:35.9.

Girls

Teams

1. Carlton/Wrenshall, 75; 2. South Ridge, 91; 3. Ely, 132; 4. Moose Lake-Willow River/Barnum, 137; 5. Crosby-Ironton, 145; 6. Mesabi East, 149; 7. Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin, 154; 8. Duluth Marshall, 158; 9. Esko, 161; 10. International Falls, 211; 11. Mountain Iron-Buhl, 249; 12. Pine River-Backus, 315.

Individuals

1. Addison Burckhardt, SR, 19:54.8; 2. Molly Brophy, Ely, 19:57.7; 3. Aubree Skelton, ME, 20:03.0; 4. Liz Nelson, MIB, 20:08.5; 5. Grace Hrabik, Esko, 20:14.4; 6. Zoe Devine, Ely, 20:19.4; 7. Evelyn Brodeen, SR, 20:21.7; 8. Brielle Simula, Carl./Wren., 20:36.9; 9. Emaleigh Olesiak, Crom.-Wr., 20:43.7; 14. Sara Cid, Carl./Wren., 21:02.9; 15. Ruth Sandstrom, Carl./Wren., 21:12.3; 18. Abby Cid, Carl./Wren., 21:31.6; 21. Tatum Barto, SR, 21:46.8; 25. Emma Cid, Carl./Wren.., 22:01.4; 33. Brook Smith, SR, 22:26.3; 34. Arriana Ridge, SR, 22:30.8; 37. Madison Ellefson, SR, 22:54.2; 39. Isabel Riley, Carl./Wren., 22:56.9; 43. Morgan Laveau, Carl./Wren., 23:04.8; 54. Jillian Sajdak, SR, 23:27.3.

Jon Nowacki joined the News Tribune in August 1998 as a sports reporter. He grew up in Stephen, Minnesota, in the northwest corner of the state, where he was actively involved in school and sports and was a proud member of the Tigers’ 1992 state championship nine-man football team.

After graduating in 1993, Nowacki majored in print journalism at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, serving as editor of the college paper, “The Aquin,” and graduating with honors in December 1997. He worked with the Associated Press during the “tobacco trial” of 1998, leading to the industry’s historic $206 billion settlement, before moving to Duluth.

Nowacki started as a prep reporter for the News Tribune before moving onto the college ranks, with an emphasis on Minnesota Duluth football, including coverage of the Bulldogs’ NCAA Division II championships in 2008 and 2010.

Nowacki continues to focus on college sports while filling in as a backup on preps, especially at tournament time. He covers the Duluth Huskies baseball team and auto racing in the summer. When time allows, he also writes an offbeat and lighthearted food column entitled “The Taco Stand,” a reference to the “Taco Jon” nickname given to him by his older brother when he was a teenager that stuck with him through college. He has a teenage daughter, Emma.

Nowacki can be reached at jnowacki@duluthnews.com or (218) 380-7027. Follow him on Twitter @TacoJon1.
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