BY DAVE PEDERSEN
The Central Minnesota Conference cross country meet was a great test run in many ways for Rockford in the Section 5A meet in Milaca Thursday, Oct. 24.
First off, all of the same teams from the conference will enter the section meet, so Rocket runners know where the battles will be for top spots.
Second, the conference meet was not only a test, but was the first varsity action for many of the Rockford girls. It was the first time all season coach Jason Hester fielded a full varsity girls team in a meet. The coach ran several younger runners on the junior varsity so they would gain experience and not get burned out going against veteran varsity runners.
Passing the test run with flying colors was senior Abigail Botten, who competed in her first varsity cross country meet ever and finished seventh in the conference meet.
“She has been playing soccer, and once her season was over Abby wanted to see what cross country was like since she is a mile runner in track,” said Hester. “Had she more experience, I believe that she would be challenging other runners for the conference title. It will be interesting to see how she does at sections.”
Seventh-grader Erin Hopkins (23) ran her first varsity race at the league event in Pierz, finishing right behind ninth-grader Liz Nelson (22). Next came sophomore Anya Cady (40) and Emma Hawley (49). The girls finished fifth out of eight teams.
Rockford’s boys captured third place behind Holdingford and Maple Lake. The Rockets did earn the most All-Conference honors with three in the top 10.
“Austin Witthuhn ran a very gritty race and came up with a personal best,” said Hester about the senior’s sixth place finish. Junior Nick Klonne (9) and senior Ty Griffin (10) also ran well. We knew that Holdingford would be a tough team to beat and Maple Lake’s depth hurt us in the final standings.”
Next came junior Brannon Winters (27), ninth-grader Joe Pothast (30), junior Drew Hafften (31) and junior Nico VanDanacker (34).
Hester said Mora is the team to beat for the boys, adding an upper half finish is realistic for the Rockets.
Rockford did well in the junior varsity and Middle School events at the league meet. Lucas Klonne placed second in the boys Middle School race. Nathan Schumacher, Josh Shaikoski and Austin Achtelik placed in the top 10 in the junior varsity race. Seventh-grader Grace Clark did well by placing seventh in the Middle School event, with Charlotte Faue 10th.
Delano enters sections
The Delano boys and girls cross country teams will enter the Section 2AA meet Thursday, Oct. 24 at Buffalo Heights Golf Course in Buffalo. The girls run at 4 p.m. and boys at 4:30 p.m.