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CROSS COUNTRY CLASS A: Rebels Olson takes fifth at state

Moose Lake-Willow River junior Ethan Olson set a personal record at the Class A State Cross Country meet Saturday in Northfield, finishing in fifth place just over five seconds behind the first-place finisher. Pine Journal File Photo 1 / 5
Carlton senior Erika Fox was the top local finisher in the Class A girls race, placing 26th Saturday. Jana Peterson/jpeterson@pinejournal.com2 / 5
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Moose Lake cross country runner Ethan Olson not only achieved his goal of finishing in the top 10 at Saturday’s Class A cross country championships, he cracked the top 5. Olson covered the five-kilometer course at St. Olaf’s College in Northfield, Minn., in 16 minutes, 2.4 seconds — a new personal record.

Impressively, Olson, in his third consecutive state appearance representing the small Moose Lake-Willow River-Barnum cooperative program, was just over five seconds behind state champion Declan Dahlberg of Mounds Park Academy, who clocked a blazing 15:56.9.

"To be five seconds from the winner is crazy," said Olson, already looking ahead to next year. "So why not go for a little more?"

Olson raced among the top pack persistently Saturday, only fading in the final straightaway. With his long-legged runner’s frame and consistent stride, Olsen ran with plenty of confidence after dominating the Section 7A race two weeks ago. It was evident the 6-foot, 145-pound Olson was among the finest of small-school runners Saturday.

"I felt like I had something to do," said Olson, who placed 59th at state last year and has shaved off more than 50 seconds from his PR a season ago. "I was feeling great. I was peaking at the right time."

That may be an understatement, as Olson won six meets this fall, including his obliteration of the 7A field en route to his first title. There, he ran a 16:18.4 on Cloquet Country Club's flat course, one of his favorites. Saturday, however, he lopped another 16 seconds off his time and nearly won it all.

"Amazing," said Carlton senior Erika Fox, who watched Olson prior to racing in the Class A girls race. "I was impressed."

So were Olson's bandwagon supporters, including about 15 teammates, classmates, friends and family members who were eagerly waiting to greet him at a crowded finish line.

Fellow Carlton County runners in the boys Class A field included Esko's Josh Kemp (37th) and Sam Rengo (97th), along with Cromwell-Wright-Floodwood cooperative duo Wyatt Rauvola (127th) and Cameron Dickey (149th).

Like he did entering this season, Olson plans to continue to train often, racking miles on top of miles. He's hoping to potentially sweep the 1,600- and 3,200-meter titles this coming spring in track and field, seeking another state appearance there, as well.

Looking at cross country next fall, there's no doubt this Rebel is on a mission to cause a stir among the top. Champion Dahlberg and runner-up Matt Steiger, of La Crescent, are also juniors, but the northerner isn’t deterred.

"It's a great challenge, but it's a challenge I want to try accomplish and hopefully beat them," said Olson, who is also a 4.0 student. "I'm going to do everything I can to try go down there and win it.

"It was a perfect way to end the season, better than I could have hoped for," continued Olson. "I definitely left very satisfied."



In the girls' field Saturday, Fox finished her final state meet in 26th place, topping the list of county participants including Bulldog teammate, Brittny Hillstrom (122nd), as well as ML-WR's Savannah Gamst (103rd) and Tiana Koivisto (127th) of the South Ridge-North Woods-Northeast Range cooperative.

Fox, who placed fourth last year at St. Olaf, did not place as high this year, perhaps because she is attending classes at Lake Superior College through Post Secondary Enrollment Option and was only able to attend about half the high school cross country meets due to scheduling conflicts.

Her prep career began in seventh grade and included fourth straight state appearances leading up to Saturday.

"It was difficult for it to be my last race — the last six years of my life I have been running for this school. It's been a long time," said Fox. "This is where it all began, so there will always be that connection."

With cross country now done, Fox's attention turns to her final Nordic skiing season, where she competes for the Cloquet-Esko-Carlton cooperative. She sent out an email to her Nordic teammates the day after state cross country, letting them know that captain’s practice would start the next day.

A cold-weather lover, Fox said her skis are already polished.

"If we had snow tomorrow, I'd go," Fox cracked.