Numbers on the rise for Champlin Park cross country

Senior Cassidy Soli in pursuit of school history

Champlin Park senior Cassidy Soli has qualified for three Class AA state cross country meets in her career. A fourth trip this fall would be the most in school history. (Photo by Nick Clark – Sun Newspapers)

Champlin Park senior Cassidy Soli has qualified for three Class AA state cross country meets in her career. A fourth trip this fall would be the most in school history. (Photo by Nick Clark – Sun Newspapers)

Their space was the usual one on this lot of land, tucked in with the trees and off the main outlet separating the teams and the their running course at the annual Rum River Invitational.

Champlin Park’s appearance in this particular race was new, but the Rebels were not strangers to the cross country layout adjacent to Anoka High School.

“We run our section meet here,” noted sixth-year head coach Kevin Moorhead. “Our kids know this place.”

That was why, as the participating teams staked camp prior to the start of the six-race afternoon, Champlin Park found its usual location.

Trees lined two ends, and the actual race course bordered another. For years, it has been perfect – off the beaten path, in some seclusion.

But quarters were tight this time around. And for good reason.

“This might be the most kids we’ve ever hard out in school history,” said Moorhead. “We’ve got an influx of ninth-graders out, and that has really built some depth on our team this year.”

In all, nearly 55 runners came out for cross country, and that didn’t include the mass of Jackson Middle School runner who also made the trip to the Run River to compete in the middle school races.

As a whole, the group of 55 has been running under a transformed schedule this fall. Whether caused by conflicts, or just the desire to change – “a little of both, actually,” Moorhead said – the end result has been an impressive lineup of fall races.

It started when the team hosted its own invitational Aug. 31, which was followed by a trip to the Bauman/Rovn Invitational at Gale Woods Farm in Minnetrista Sept. 6

In all, over 1,900 competitors took part in one of the largest early-season cross country meets contested in the metro.

The team’s were in Anoka last week for the Rum River Invitational, and are heading to Stones Throw Golf Course Saturday, Sept. 22 for the Milaca Mega Meet.

They get to run in the Roy Griak Invitational Sept. 29, the historic Swain Invitational Oct. 6, the Northwest Suburban Conference championships Oct. 11 in Elk River, and then the section championships back in Anoka Oct. 16.

“We love the schedule we were able to put together,” Moorhead said. “These are great races, some of the best in the entire state.”

The Nov. 3 state meet at St. Olaf College in Northfield is also on the Champlin Park schedule, and the hope is a history-making trip can be made in that direction when the time comes.

Senior Cassidy Soli has run in three Class AA girls cross country meets, matching the accomplishment Steph Sjostrom completed four years ago. No one in school history has gone four times though, and after what Moorhead said has been Soli’s strongest summer training-wise of her career, the goal is in reach.

“It’s a tough section this year, but she can do it,” Moorhead said. “She’s running strong and she’s running confident. That’s a pretty good combination.”

That much was obvious in Anoka last week, as Soli bolted out with the leaders and held on to cover the 4-kilomter layout in 15 minutes, 17.8 seconds, which was good enough for sixth place in the field of 89 runners.

The Rebels girls ended up 10th as a team in the event. The boys, led by senior Jacob Holm’s 40th place finish, were 12th.

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