Rockford cross country newcomers are front runners at first meet

Eighth-grader Ava Cusciotta finished fourth at the Maple Lake Invitational in her first Rockford varsity cross country meet. Rockford finished second as a team, one point behind Maple Lake. (Submitted photo by Darcie Moe)

Crow River News Sports

Rockford has several experienced varsity cross country runners returning this season, but it was the newcomers who led the charge at the first meet.

Eighth-grader Ava Cusciotta and sophomore Nels Trandahl both finished fourth for Rockford’s boys and girls teams at Friday’s Maple Lake Invitational. It was the first varsity cross country race for both runners who did well in track.

Veteran varsity girls were close behind Cusciotta as the Rockets finished second, one point behind host Maple Lake in the 11-team meet.

Next came ninth-grader Ellie Sather (12), junior Grace Clark (14), eighth-grader Emma Sather (16), eighth-grader Natasha James (20), eighth-grader Alix Gifford (21) and eighth-grader Makayla Graunke (37).

“I thought the girls ran very well,” said coach Jason Hester. “We have been working on running as a group during practice and the girls did a nice job of that. This was Ava’s first cross country race and she did surprisingly well.”

Hester said Ellie Sather and Clark ran as well as expected. Sather was third and Clark fifth at last year’s conference meet and Clark qualified for the state meet the last two years.

“Other than Ava, the runners have varsity experience from last year, so I was not surprised by the team results,” adds Hester. “The girls have responded well to what the coaches have been emphasizing the first three weeks.”

Hester expected that two new runners will add depth to the boys team and he was right so far. Trandahl had success on the track team and has been a soccer player the past few years. Sophomore Leo Duffy (34) was the second Rocket runner to cross the finish line in his first varsity race.

Next came senior Lucas Klonne (35), ninth-grader Michael Nelson (53) and sophomore Andrew Finger (59). Rockford was missing a couple of our varsity boys runners.

In the girls junior varsity race, ninth-grader Grace Zimmerman was eighth overall. Rockford did not have a junior high girls team since most were running on varsity.

Rockford will host its annual Rocket Run Invitational, 4:15 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 8 at Shamrock Golf Course in Corcoran.

Teams entered include Dassel-Cokato, Delano, DeLaSalle, Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity, Providence Academy, Rocori, Spectrum, St. Francis and Watertown-Mayer.

Rockford’s teams will run at Mora, 4:15 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 12 and at the Delano Invite, 4 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 14 at Lake Rebecca Park.