The Mounds View boys cross-country team had been ranked No. 1 for much of the year. Eden Prairie had been ranked No. 1 and 2. White Bear Lake finished the regular season ranked No. 3 and No. 4-ranked St. Paul Highland Park’s roster includes the state’s fastest runner.
All four teams would be in the field for Saturday’s Class AA State meet.
“I’ve said it before,” stated Eden Prairie coach Jeff Lindlief, “we could run a great race and win it all or run a great race and finish fourth.
“All four teams are really, really good,” he added.
On Saturday, Mounds View ran a great race and finished first with a meet-best 86 points. Eden Prairie ran a great race, counting three all-time PRs, and finished one point behind at 87 points. St. Paul Highland Park finished third with 135 points. Edina (158) and Prior Lake (160) finished four and five.
“Sometimes the other team is just one point better,” explained Lindlief. “It happens. It happens in cross-country, it happens in sports and it happens in life.”
Jake Derouin paced Eden Prairie with a fourth-place overall finish (15:40.2). Zach Spears finished 12th (15:57.4), Mohamed Mohamud 30th (16:13.6), Alex Guiterrez 37th (16:17.6) and Isaac Hartman 54th (16:31.3).
Jack Gschwendtner and Nile Timmerman finished 80 and 129.
Remove the runners not competing in the team competition and Eden Prairie’s top five finished 3, 7, 19, 25 and 33.
“I talked to the guys in the chute after the race,” said Lindlief, “They were obviously disappointed,”
What happened next would make the coach’s day.
“They went over and shook hands with the Mounds View guys,” said Lindlief. “That’s what makes this group so special.“
St. Paul Highland Park’s Oliver Paleen was the individual winner. He ran the 5K race in 15:25.2.
Derouin and Spears both earned All-State honors (top 25).
“For Jake to do what he did after missing 4-6 weeks of training is amazing,” said Lindlief. “We may have had a couple faster kids over the years, but none have been tougher. He’s the toughest kid I’ve ever coached.”
And Spears might be one of the most improved.
“He was a JV runner last year,” said Lindlief. “On Saturday, he ran his best race ever. To finish 12th and make All-State is impressive.”
Eden Prairie’s Liesl Paulsen, racing in her fifth state cross-country meet, counted a career-best seventh-place finish.
“Her goal was a single-digit finish,” said Lindlief. “She was up there with the leaders and ran a great race.”
Paulsen ran the 5K course in 18:21.2.
Like Derouin and Spears, she also earned All-State honors.
Teammates Abby Jirele, racing in her first state cross-country meet, finished 67th (19:17.3). Ella Bakken, racing in her second state cross-country meet, finished 77th (19:26.9).
“To get to state by coming out of Section 6AA is an accomplishment,” said the coach. “They didn’t run better than they ran at sections, but they were close.
“They ran their last meet at state,” added Lindlief. “It doesn’t get any better than that.”
Note: Section 6AA teams Edina (55 points) and Wayzata (109 points) finished first and second in the team competition. Saint Michael-Albertville, a new Lake Conference school, finished third with 115 points.