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Prep cross country: Brodeen, Foster win Section 7A titles

South Ridge and Cromwell-Wright runners take different paths to achieving same result.

Three girls running.
South Ridge’s Evelyn Brodeen, from the left, GNK’s Lola Champlin, and Ely’s Molly Brophy near the finish line in the Section 7A cross-country championships Thursday, Oct. 27, 2022. Brodeen won with a time of 19:42.6; Brophy was second at 19:45.1; Champlin third at 19:46.3.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune
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DULUTH — South Ridge cross-country runner Evelyn Brodeen was always a good runner but she cranked up her training this summer and saw immediate results this fall.

Still, the junior had never won a race until she captured the Polar League Championships two weeks ago in Grand Marais, and Thursday, Oct. 27, she even topped that.

Brodeen took the girls title at the Section 7A cross country championships, covering five kilometers at Lester Park Golf Course in 19 minutes, 42.8 seconds to hold off Ely’s Molly Brophy (19:45.1). In a very tight race, Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin’s Lola Champlin (19:46.3) and International Falls’ Abbi Hutchinson (19:54.3) finished third and fourth, respectively.

Brodeen’s time was 39 seconds faster than the time she had in placing seventh at the Section 7A meet last season at Cloquet Country Club.

“My times were better right from the start this season, and after winning conference, I thought I might be able to win this, too,” Brodeen said. “That was the idea anyway. I was like, ‘I could, but I don’t know if I’m going to.’ So this was fun.”

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While the girls race was entertaining, going four-wide around the last turn at Lester Park Golf Course — and all the top runners looking as if they had died coming across the finish line — Noah Foster left no doubt in the boys race as he won in a breeze.

The Cromwell-Wright senior led from start to finish to defend his section title in 16:16.4, nearly a minute ahead of South Ridge runner-up Alex Burckhardt (17:13.4).

Boys running.
Cromwell-Wright’s Noah Foster takes an early lead in the Section 7A cross-country championships Thursday at Duluth’s Lester Park Golf Course. Foster won the race, finishing 57 seconds ahead of the second-place finisher.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

“I just wanted to run my best race, and I think I did that,” said Foster, who had his track season hindered by nagging injuries last spring. “There wasn’t anything special to it. I feel good.”

This is the first time in decades Cloquet Country Club hasn’t served as a host to one of the Section 7 meets.

Unlike the Cloquet course, which had multiple loops, Lester Park only had one small loop and most of the action took place over the hill.

That had spectators wandering like lost cattle.

“This is not as spectator friendly as the Cloquet course,” race starter Paul Nisius said.

At least fans were treated to temperatures in the mid-40s, hardly any wind and no precipitation coming down until after the races. How many times could Cloquet say that?

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A group of seven GNK boys, hats on backwards and toting a football, made the rounds to cheer on the likes of Champlin and Avalynn Westphal, despite the fact one of the boys was in crutches.

“It’d be a good time to have a golf cart,” one of them said as they trudged up the hill.

Too bad the clubhouse, and course itself, were closed.

Foster’s 16:16 time was 17 seconds faster than the 16.33.4 he posted last year to win in Cloquet.

“I’m very happy with that,” Foster said. “This is a tougher course. Uphill at the start and mostly downhill on the way back. It’s a nice course but just a little bit hilly.”

That sure didn’t seem to bother him.

Boy running.
South Ridge’s Alex Burckhardt nears the finish line at the Section 7A cross-country championships Thursday, Oct. 27, 2022. He finished in second place with a time of 17:13.4.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

Burckhardt, a sophomore, said everyone who lined up Thursday knew Foster was the runner to beat.

“He was out front, right away,” Burckhardt said. “I didn’t really have him in my sights at all. I was just going for my best time. He’s always been way out front.”

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Burckhardt’s twin sister, Addison, the defending section champion, finished 18th among girls while seventh-grade sibling Zoey Burckhardt was 26th.

The Burckhardts and Evelyn Brodeen, this year's girls champ, are neighbors in Orr and attend North Woods High School, which is part of the cross-country co-op with South Ridge.

While Alex joked that he would never go for a run with his sisters — “I’ve always been a lot faster” — Addison and Evelyn train together and enjoy a run around Pelican Lake.

Brodeen has a simple strategy.

Girl running.
Ely’s Molly Brophy nears her second-place finish in the Section 7A cross-country championships Thursday, Oct. 27, 2022. She finished in 19:45.1.
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

“I like to stay back and when there’s like a mile left, then turn it on,” Brodeen said.

This time it was more like with 800 meters left when she pulled away from Brophy, who had led most of the race.

Brophy, who has asthma, wasn’t about to give up. The Ely runner reeled Brodeen back to within 10 yards only for Brodeen to come up with one more kick to finally seal it.

Brophy also finished second last year but said there was no shame in that.

“I just really wanted to PR,” she said.

Brophy did just that. Her 19:45 topped her personal record by 12 seconds. On a tougher course, no less.

Afterwards, Brophy was puffing on her inhaler, but apparently, asthma is no match for the small but spry eighth-grader with the big heart.

“I just think about something that I want to do, and think about PR-ing, and doing my best, and what I want to do in the future,” Brophy said. “And that keeps me from thinking about anything else.”

The Titans of Section 7

The top two teams and top six individuals not on those teams advance to the state meet Saturday, Nov. 5, at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota.

Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin won its fifth straight Section 7A boys team title with 38 points, 25 ahead of runner-up Moose Lake/Willow River/Barnum, which got a fourth-place finish from senior Murray Salzer.

A short time later came the Titans’ wave as GNK runners Levi Danielson, Riley Koran, Benjamin Plackner and Brayden Nielsen finished sixth through ninth, respectively. The Titans have now qualified for the state meet eight straight years.

Junior Brielle Simula’s sixth-place finish helped Carlton-Wrenshall defend its girls team title by holding off Ely by a mere point, 76 to 75.

Now it’s on to next week.

If Thursday was any indication, Foster, a four-time state cross-country qualifier, might just be saving his best for last.

“I was fourth last year at state, and the goal this year is to be first,” he said.

Section 7A Cross Country Championships

At Lester Park Golf Course, Duluth

Thursday’s Results

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

Boys

Teams

1. Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin, 38; 2. Moose Lake/Willow River/Barnum, 63; 3. Ely, 88; 4. South Ridge, 112; 5. Esko, 133; 6. Mesabi East, 145; 7. Carlton, 150; 8. Mountain Iron-Buhl, 229; 9. Pine River-Backus, 249; 10. Lakeview Christian, 298; 11. Chisolm, 321; 12. International Falls, 321.

Individuals

1. Noah Foster, Cromwell-Wright, 16:16.4; 2. Alex Burckhardt, SR, 17:13.4; 3. Benjamin Meysembour, Esko, 17:21.5; 4. Murray Salzer, MLWRB, 17:24.7; 5. Caid Chittum, Ely, 17:25.3; 6. Levi Danielson, GNK, 17:26.4; 7. Riley Koran, GNK, 17:27.3; 8. Benjamin Plackner, GNK, 17:30.3; 9. Brayden Nielsen, GNK, 17:30.6; 10. Shawn Bailey, Moose Lk/WR/Barnum, 17:31.4; 11. Sawyer FierkeLepp, SR, 17:40.7; 12. Jack Riley, Carl.-Wren., 17:42.8; 13. Bryce Nielsen, GNK, 17:47.4; 15. Elliott Wasche, MLWRB, 18:00.0; 18. Hunter Milstead, GNK, 18:20.1; 19. Eli Berger, MLWRB, 18:20.3, 20. Eoghan Heaslip, MLWRB, 18:20.4; 31. Daniel Mikrot, MLWRB, 19:08.3; 35. Isaac Danielson, GNK, 19:27.3; 38. Gavin Thiry, MLWRB, 19:35.0.

Girls

Teams

1. Carlton-Wrenshall, 75; 2. Ely, 76; 3. South Ridge, 80; 4. Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin, 144; 5. Moose Lake/Willow River/Barnum, 152; 6. Crosby-Ironton, 153; 7. International Falls, 177; 8. Mesabi East, 179; 9. Duluth Marshall, 191; 10. Mountain Iron-Buhl, 237; 11. Esko, 273; 12. Pine River-Backus, 291.

Individuals

1. Evelyn Brodeen, SR, 19:42.8; 2. Molly Brophy, Ely, 19:45.1; 3. Lola Champlin, GNK, 19:46.3; 4. Abbi Hutchinson, IF, 19:54.3; 5. Olivia Pascuzzi, Chis., 20:17.4; 6. Brielle Simula, Carl.-Wren., 20:25.3; 7. Liz Nelson, MIB, 20:27.4; 8. Zoe Devine, Ely, 20:31.3; 9. Emma Williams, GNK, 20:40.7; 12. Ruth Sandstrom, Carl.-Wren., 21:10.4; 13. Claire Blauch, Ely, 21:18.4; 16. Sara Cid, Carl.-Wren., 21:39.3; 22. Abby Cid, Carl.-Wren., 21:58.4; 24. Isabel Riley, Carl.-Wren., 22:05.3; 29. Phoebe Helms, Ely, 22:27.9; 30. Elsa Ellerbroek, Ely, 22:29.3; 37. Abby Dunn, Ely, 22:38.4; 43. Kiarstin Eaton, Ely, 22:53.4; 49. Lucy Stevens, Carl.-Wren., 23:15.3; 58. Teagan Tessier, Carl.-Wren., 24:00.4.

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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