The future is now for the Prior Lake girls cross country team.
The No. 5-ranked Lakers had four eighth-graders and three ninth-graders in their Section 2AAA lineup Oct. 26 at Gale Woods in Minnetrista, and they performed like experienced upperclassmen.
Prior Lake earned a spot in the Class 3A state field with a runner-up finish with 52 points. Second-ranked Edina won the title (39), while No. 1 Minnetonka was left out of the state party finishing three points behind the Lakers in third place.
Chanhassen was a distant fourth in the eight-team field with 134 points, followed by Waconia (140), Eden Prairie (142), Shakopee (178) and Chaska (208).
The top two teams make state, along with the top six individuals not on the advancing squads.
The Prior Lake boys ended up fourth in the team standings with 139 points, but qualified two runners to state in sophomores Hootie Hage and Thomas Simmonds.
Second-ranked Minnetonka won the boys title (32), followed by No. 10 Edina (41) and Eden Prairie (93). Chanhassen was fifth (144), followed by Chaska (153), Waconia (156) and Shakopee (159).
The Class 3A state meet is set for Nov. 6 at St. Olaf College in Northfield.
The Prior Lake girls will be making their 14th official state appearance since 1989. The team’s best finish was 2009 when they took second.
Prior Lake was fourth in both 2005 and 2007 and fifth in 2006. Other finishes include seventh in 1989; ninth in 2010; 10th in 1993, 2001, 2004 and 2008; 13th in 2011; 15th in 2003 and 16th in 2018.
Last fall, The Minnesota State High School League did not have any state competitions for all fall sports due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, the Twin Cities Running Club put on a Cross Country Showcase (an unofficial state meet) at Island Pine Golf Club in Atwater, where the Prior Lake boys won the title and the Laker girls finished eighth.
Both Prior Lake teams won the Section 3AA title last fall. Cross country went to three classes this season when the MSHSL reclassified sections for all sports last spring, moving both Laker teams to Section 2AAA.
At this year’s section meet, the Laker girls had three runners in the top 10 with eighth-grader Sarah Gastony leading the way taking fourth overall with a time of 18:41.99 on the 5,000-meter course.
Eighth-grader Keeley Mohling was sixth (18:49.21), while ninth-grader Layla Vennink was 10th (18:57.69).
Five runners count in the team standings. The Lakers next two finishers were eighth-grader Isabelle Reinders in 12th (19:07.97) and ninth-grader Sophia Basile in 20th (19:51.15).
Eighth-grader Talia Bushman was 24th for Prior Lake (20:17.95), and ninth-grader Maggie Hoen ended up 28th (20:45.59).
On the boys side, Hage finished runner-up with a time of 15:41.73. He was roughly eight seconds behind the winner, junior Nick Gilles of Minnetonka (15:33.57).
Simmonds ended up 12th for the Laker boys (16:58.55), and will compete in his first-ever state meet. Hage was a big part of the Lakers’ unofficial state championship squad last year.
Other finishes for the Prior Lake boys at sections came from senior Zach Johnson (25th, 17:43.15), senior Tyler Schwen (49th, 19:01.90), ninth-grader Josh Cole (51st, 19:21.09), eighth-grader Joe Gannon (53rd, 19:38.24) and seventh-grader Dylan Tuschen (54th, 19:42.60).