Dragon cross country races hard to season’s finish line

The Dragon cross country squads headed up to Cloquet on Tuesday, Oct. 28 for Section 7AA competition. Though the result was not all they had hoped for, the Pine City teams found much to look forward to even as this season crossed the finish line. 

“The weather was chilly and damp, but the course was in pretty good shape,” said Coach Jared Clementson. “Most of our kids were able to finish their season with their fastest time of the season.”

Clementson noted that this was Pine City’s first year in a new section and class. 

“Cross country moved to having three classes and we ended up being one of the smallest schools in the middle class (AA),” he said. “This means we have to compete against schools that are much larger than we have in the past.”

GIRLS: The girls team came into the race ranked seventh, but had a good day and placed sixth out of 11 teams with a total of 173 points. Hibbing won with 58 points and North Shore placed second with 70 points. Mora placed eighth with 235 points.

Clementson noted that sophomore Eva Johnson spent much of the beginning of the season injured and this greatly reduced the training she had for the season. 

“With help from Jeff Lahti, Johnson was able to rehab and get back to normal training,” Clementson explained. “Johnson slowly got better throughout the season and was working toward her goal of getting back to the State meet.” 

During the race, Johnson put herself in a good position and was in 13th most of the race. With about a half mile to go, the girl that Johnson needed to pass to qualify for State decided to burst ahead. Johnson didn’t have enough to respond and ended up in 15th with a season’s best time of 20:45.7.

Emma Belsheim, who has shown a great deal of improvement throughout the season, ran a personal best time of 21:56.5 placing 33rd. This puts her as the 10th fastest girl in school history at the 5K distance. Rachel Brown ran hard and finished 39th in a time of 22:27.5. 

Gracie Larson, Peyton Perreault, and Paige Gray all ran personal best times and all broke 23 minutes for the first time. Larson placed 42nd in 22:40.2, Perreault placed 44th in 22:47.5, and Gray placed 47th in 22:50.3. Sophia Olson ran strong to round out the squad in 63rd with a time of 24:51.0.

“I am proud of how our girls ran and competed against some very good teams,” Clementson said. “They showed a tremendous amount of improvement from the beginning of the season until now. These girls are all returning next year and should continue to improve. I appreciate how positive these girls are and how they support each other.”

BOYS: The boys team was ranked ninth, but they had great races to place seventh out of 11 teams with a total of 171 points. 

Rock Ridge’s (Virginia/Eveleth-Gilbert) boys won with a score of 82 points and Cloquet placed second with 63 points. 

“One of the goals the boys had was to beat Mora, which they did by two points,” Clementson said. “With our varsity made of four ninth graders and three eighth graders, they were the youngest team in the Section. The good news is most of the teams that beat our boys will be losing one or more seniors and we will be returning everyone.”

Freshman Charlie Ausmus has had an outstanding season, but unfortunately things didn’t go his way and he missed his opportunity to qualify for the State meet. 

Ausmus was in a good position for most of the race, but fell back in the last 500m of the race and placed 17th in a time of 18:02.2.

“Ausmus is a strong and determined runner and will likely find himself pushing for a top spot in the Section next year,” Clementson said. 

Ethan Aagaard, who was the top eighth grader in the race, placed 35th in a personal best time of 18:42.3. Eli Fromm bounced back after not running well at the GRC to run a personal best time of 18:43.9 good for 36th place. Roman McKinney broke 19 minutes for the first time and placed 39th in a personal best time of 18:52.9. Weston Clementson improved his best time by 30 seconds and was the second fastest eighth grader in the race behind Aagaard. He finished in 44th place with a personal best time of 19:04.8. Bohdah Valvoda (19:56.3) and Sean Skluzacek (19:56.7) both ran well and placed 60th and 62nd respectively.

“This was our boys best race of the season,” Clementson said. “It is fun to see a lot of our boys peaking at the end of the season. This is a very special group who are determined to do great things over the next three to four years.”

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