NORTHFIELD – Saturday was one of the finest days for cross-country state championship storylines in memory. All four races – Class 2A and 1A for girls and boys – provided epic moments and wonderful hoopla on a gloriously sunny day at St. Olaf College.
We saw a runner sprint to a state title by running with one shoe. We saw twin sisters finish first and second. We saw a two-time state runner-up finally claim a gold medal. And we saw history in the first father-son duo to win state cross-country titles. Here’s a recap…
2A BOYS: ONE SHOE ON, ONE SHOE OFF
A year ago, Richfield’s Obsa Ali finished second, four scant seconds behind Wayzata senior Wayde Hall.
Ever since that day, Ali (pictured) has been thinking, pondering, imagining how it would feel to be the first runner to finish the picturesque, wooded 5,000-meter course at St. Olaf. But in his wildest dreams, Ali never ever could have imagined what took place Saturday.
He has been battling sore shins, which caused him to take two weeks off late in the season. He has been struggling with the flu and a bad head cold. And then the kicker: he finished the state championship wearing one shoe.
Another runner stepped on the heel of his right shoe during the race, causing the back of his foot to slip out. With 400 meters left in the race, he kicked off the kick and went on to cross the finish line two seconds ahead of Wayzata junior Connor Olson. Ali’s time of 15 minutes, 15.2 seconds was five seconds off the course record.
“I took it off and went for it,” he said. “It was messing with my head; ‘Should I stop?’ I just kicked it in (to the finish line).”
It was clear from Ali’s postgame demeanor that a state title was something he dearly wanted.
“It feels amazing. I feel like I just lost a thousand pounds, a huge weight off my back. It was keeping me up at night. This was my biggest, biggest goal since last year. It’s amazing.”
Isaiah Barlow of Hutchinson finished third, followed by Jacob McDermott of Cretin-Derham Hall and Zack Benning of Hastings.
Olson’s finish helped Wayzata claim the 2A boys team title with 53 points. Edina finished second (66) for the second year in a row and two-time defending champion Stillwater (99) was third.
2A GIRLS: ALEXANDRIA’S SISTER ACT
When twins Bethany and Megan Hasz were born, Megan was the first to appear, followed by Bethany 29 minutes later. In Saturday’s 2A girls race, Bethany was first and Megan second, adding an Alexandria family flair to the finish.
A year ago Bethany (pictured) placed third and Megan was sixth. This time, there was no denying the twins. Bethany finished the 4,000 meters in 13:53.1 and Megan was next in 14:13.9, followed by Bemidji junior Jenna Truedson in 14:19.2. The top five finishers were all non-seniors, including fourth-place Anna Van Wyk, a junior from Eagan, and fifth-place Emily Betz, a junior from East Ridge.
Wayzata junior Anna French, who was second last year and ranked No. 1 in 2A this year, finished 14th.
“We knew Anna French was ranked ahead of us so we really didn’t know what would happen,” Bethany Hasz said. “But we definitely knew it was a possibility for one of us to win it.”
Wayzata captured the 2A girls team title for the second year in a row. The Trojans’ top finishers were ninth-grader Annika Lerdall (eighth) and senior Annika Halverson ( 11th).
1A GIRLS: CANNON FALLS’ TROST IS NO. 1
Emi Trost knows all about finishing second at state. The Cannon Falls senior was the second-place runner each of the last two years, but her final high school cross-country race broke the pattern in a big way.
Trost (pictured) ran to victory with a winning time of 14:40.3, 10 seconds ahead of St. Paul Academy junior Mary Naas. Becca Wilkin of Trinity School at River Ridge was third, followed by Elizabeth Schlafke of Annandale and Courtney Alama of Annandale.
In each of the last two years Trost finished behind Blake’s Clare Flanagan. Flanagan is now a senior, as well, but did not compete in the postseason because of a knee injury; she was on crutches at the race Saturday. Even if Flanagan had been healthy, it would have made little difference in Trost’s race because Blake moved up to Class 2A this season.
Schlafke and Alama led Annandale, which placed second last year, to the 1A girls team crown with a total of 85 points. Second was Lac Qui Parle Valley with 113 and third was Perham with 138.
1A BOYS: IT’S A FATHER-SON DAY FOR THE HURLEYS
Perham senior Keeghan Hurley wanted to win a state championship for several reasons. But mostly for his dad, who knows how it feels to wear a gold medal. Don Hurley won Class 2A state titles in 1976 and 1977 running for Cretin High School in St. Paul. On Saturday, son joined father in that very exclusive club.
“This means so much to me and my father,” said Keeghan (pictured with Don), who finished fifth at state last year. “This is a really, really special moment for us and for Perham.”
Don had a few simple words for his son Saturday morning. “He just said, ‘I love you’ and ‘Go do it. Do the best you possibly can.’ And that’s what I did today.”
Keeghan’s time was 15:36.7. Placing second was Waseca junior Shane Streich, 14 seconds behind Hurley. Third was Rochester Lourdes senior Ian Torchia.
Perham also won the 1A boys team title for the second year in a row, with a total of 51 points. Yellowjackets senior Jayden Cullen placed third among team entrants and junior Billy Beseman was seventh. Mounds Park Academy was second with 111 points and St. Cloud Cathedral was third with 145.
Keeghan Hurley had envisioned winning at St. Olaf for a long time. During training runs near his home, he ran up and down hills while thinking of the final hill in Northfield … an uphill climb that leads to the home stretch and the finish line.
“I’ve just been picturing that last hill,” he said. “It was like a dream come true when I hit that hill. It was like, ‘I’ve already seen this, I know what’s going to happen.’ It was very, very cool.”
--To see photo galleries from all four races, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.
--Diet Coke Count: 2 for the day, 2 for the state cross-country tournament, 11 for the fall state tournaments.
BY THE NUMBERS
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