by Eric Oslund
When people woke up the morning of Thursday, Oct. 5, they were greeted with a clouds, cold, and rain – an overall dreary day. But as the sun continued to rise higher into the sky, the rain cleared up and the temperatures rose into the low 60’s while the clouds remained.
It may not have been the ideal day for most people who were hoping to spend some time outside, but for the runners competing in the Thundering Royal Elk Invitational, it could not have been more perfect.
“The elements seemed to all line up for some of our athletes,” Rogers head coach Margaret Litchy said. “The weather was good, fans were enthusiastic and racers were determined to do well.”
Distance runners could not ask for more than clouds and cool temperatures as they begin their race, so you can be sure everyone at the Fox Hollow Golf Club was ecstatic when the rain cleared up just moments before the start.
The Thundering Royal Elk Invitational is a yearly meet that Elk River, Rogers and Zimmerman put on together. This year they 19 schools competing, which amounted to approximately 700 participants.
“It was a great day for running on a great course,” Elk River head coach Mike Niziolek said. “It is a neat event to see will a small village of people converge on a golf course for a cross-country race. Everyone loved the course and an opportunity to participate or be a spectator for this great event.”
The varsity girls were the first to take to the golf course on this cloudy day, and of the area schools, Elk River finished third with 96 points, Rogers finished sixth with 154 points, Zimmerman finished seventh with 158 points, and Spectrum finished 13th with 356 points.
The Zimmerman girls did a great job on the top end, having three racers finish in the top 20. Cheresa Bouley came in fourth with a time of 19:58.4, and she was followed by Hailee Zimple (13th, 20:20.0) and Sophia Smith (17th, 20:28. 7).
“Our girls are having a very nice season.,” Zimmerman head coach Mike Back said. “We have finished second in a few meets this year. Cheresa Bouley, Hailee Zimple, and Sophia Smith have all had outstanding years, and ran well on Thursday.”
Elk River also had three racers finish in the top 20 of the invite. Elaina Kuhnau led the way, crossing the finish line in eighth with a time of 20:08.7. She was then followed by Audrey Neuerburg-Chapman (10th, 20:12.7) and Jessica Holmquist (20th, 20:44.1).
The Royals top finisher was seventh grader Clara Glad in 24th with a time of 20:52.2, and the first Sting girl to finish the race was Martha Bergley in 49th with a time of 21:59.1.
The varsity boys were the next to take to the course, and once again it was Elk River leading the way for the area schools, finishing in fourth with a team score of 128. Three of their racers finished in the top20, with Lucas Gustafson leading the charge in third with a time of 16:36.2. He was followed by Miles Olofson (10th, 17:12.7) and Noah Haaf (19th, 17:26.1).
“The boys team had a very good day.,” Niziolek said. “It was the finest team performance of the season.
“Lucas medaled and ran another fabulous race. Lucas is demonstrating consistent performances in practice and at the big meets.”
They Royals followed up the Elks at the invite, finishing in sixth with a score of 165. Alex Heidorn was their top finisher, and the only one to finish in the top 20, coming in ninth with a time of 17:11.5.
The Spectrum boys then tied with Mahtomedi, but were rewarded seventh place. They were led by Zack Anderson, who came in seventh with a time of 17:09.2. It was a very good showing for the Sting, as they typically only race schools in Class A.
“Most of the teams at this meet were larger AA schools so this proved to be a good test for us,” said head coach Rick Peterson. “The vast majority of our runners set season best times and many of our veterans set all-time personal records.”
The Thunder boys ended up finishing in 15th with 473 points. Their top finisher was Aaron Coons in 78th with a time of 19:14.0. The Thunder boys are a very young group this season, with just one senior and no juniors, but have shown consistent improvement throughout the season.
It’s always a great time when all the area schools are able to come together and compete against one another, and it could have just been an added factor in a majority of racers finishing with either season, or all-time best times.