Prep cross country: Brodeen, Foster win Section 7A titles
South Ridge and Cromwell-Wright runners take different paths to achieving same result.
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.”
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).
“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?
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.
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.”
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.
“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.