NXN Nike Heartland Regionals

Olympian Shelby Houlihan poses with the Eden Prairie boys cross-country team (Tristan Lainhart, left, Alex Gutierrez, Isaac Hartman, Jake Derouin, Mohamed Mohamud, Zach Spears and Jack Gschwendtner) after Eden Prairie placed third at the NXR Nike Cross Regionals Meet in Sioux Falls, S.D., on Sunday.

Sunday’s Nike Cross Regionals Heartland Meet in Sioux Falls, S.D., brought members of the Eden Prairie High School boys and girls cross-country teams full circle, half circle actually.

Most of Eden Prairie’s runners started their respective seasons in June, logging summer miles in 80- and 90-degree temperatures.

On Sunday, they ran in the snow.

The Eden Prairie boys team, needing a second-place finish to advance to the NXR Nike Cross Nationals, finished third, 11 points behind second-place Stevens Point, Wisconsin.

Minnesota state champion Mounds View finished first, counting a meet-best 125 points. Stevens Point finished second with 177 points, Eden Prairie placed third with 188 points. Middleton Miles Project Club XC (227) and Lightning XC (244) finished four and five. The championship field included 31 teams.

Note: Because this is a post-season meet, runners can’t run for the high schools or their high school coaches, nor can they wear their high school uniforms.

“In Minnesota, the cross-country season ends with our state meet,” said Courtney Heinz, an Eden Prairie middle school coach turned Eden Prairie club coach. “We had 79 kids compete at the Heartland meet. That’s our most ever.”

After falling to Mounds View in the MSHSL state meet by a single point, the Eden Prairie’s boys team had its sights set on a redemption meet.

“It just wasn’t their day,” said Heinz. “Three of our runners fell and one ran most of the race with one shoe.”

Huh?

Heinz attributed the falls to a course covered with pockets of snow.

“The snow turned the mud into a plastic,” she said. “Two of our kids fell when they tripped over other kids who fell.”

The championship field included 290 finishers.

When asked about the shoe, Heinz said she thinks it might have been accidentally kicked off.

“There’s just so many kids,” she said.

Jake Derouin counted Eden Prairie’s best finish, placing 23rd (15:41.7). Zach Spears finished 45th (15:54.6), Alex Gutierrez 60th (16:00.4), Tristan Lainhart 112th (16:21.2), Mohamed Mohamud 129th (16:26.3), Isaac Hartman 161st (16:36.5) and Jack Gschwendtner 195th (16:46.7).

Girls 15

The Eden Prairie girls team, competing without one of its top-5 runners, finished 15th.

Edina, Muskego XC Club and Wayzata finished one, two and three.

Liesl Paulsen paced Eden Prairie with an eighth-place finish (17:40.3).

“For her last high school cross-country meet, she was great,” said Heinz.

Abby Jirele finished 93rd (18:55.6), Ella Bakken 116th (19:11.4), Lizzy Jester 132nd (19:25.4), Lori Derouin 143rd (19:28.8), Raina Moorjani 163rd (19:41.2) and Emily Dahl 178th (19:57.1).

The girls championship field included 30 teams and 245 finishers.

At-large?

In addition first- and second-place regional qualifiers, the Nationals meet awards four at-large bids.

The Eden Prairie boys team is in the running.

“The first priority is to a third-place team who has beaten a Nationals’ qualifier,” said Heinz. “Eden Prairie beat Mounds View during the regular season and then lost by one point at state.

“I don’t know if that gets us in,” she added, “but it could. We’ll find out Nov. 30, after the rest of the regional meets have been held.”

Paulsen is considered an alternate.

“They take the top-5 runners not on one of the qualifying teams,” said Heinz. “At seven, Liesl is second in line.”

The NXR Nike Cross Nationals will run Dec. 7, in Portland, Oregon.

Sports editor

Dan Huss covers Eden Prairie sports and especially loves reporting on sports features and outdoors-related adventures. He lives in Shorewood with his wife, Marnie, daughters Aili and Britt, and Wilma, a pheasant-finding Deutsch Drahthaar.

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