If there was only a Class AA state cross country meet this fall.

There would be runners from Prior Lake all over the course at St. Olaf College in Northfield. But due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, there will be no state competition.

It’s too bad, the Laker boys, ranked No. 1 in the state, would have been the favorite to win the title. Senior Gabe Smit would have been in the hunt for the individual crown.

But instead, Prior Lake will have to settle for winning the Section 3AA title Oct. 15 at Valleywood Golf Course in Apple Valley. Smit finished his career on the trails as the section individual champion, winning with a time of 16:02.5 on the 5,000-meter course.

Not to be outdone by the boys, Laker girls also claimed the Section 3AA crown with a lineup that included three seventh-graders, three eighth-graders and one senior.

In 2015, both Prior Lake teams competed at state together, so this fall would have been only the second time both teams qualified.

Next fall, the boys will have to replace six seniors who competed in their section lineup, including Magnus O’Connor, Kyle Nordling, John Meagher, Blake Vander Weide and McKoy Ross.

Behind Smit, the Lakers had three other runners in top five at sections. Ninth-grader Hootie Hage was third (16:16.1), followed by O’Connor in fourth (16:16.2) and Nordling in fifth (16:19.9).

Meagher was 13th (16:52.3) for Prior Lake, while Vander Weide was 15th (16:57.9) and Ross ended up 35th (17:34.0).

Prior Lake won the team crown with 26 team points, well ahead of runner-up Rosemount (41). East Ridge was third with 83 points in the 15-team field.

Last year at state, the Laker boys were a program-best fifth in the team standings. It was their best finish in six state appearances dating back to 1990 when the team was seventh.

Prior Lake ended up eighth at state in both 2014 and 2015 and was 14th in 2017. The program was also 12th in 1993.

Smit and Nordling would have competed in their fourth career state race for the Lakers. Their best finishes came last year, 11th and 26th, respectively.

Meanwhile, Smit and Colin Dwyer are the only two Lakers in history to break 16 minutes in a 5,000-meter race. Dwyer was 10th at state in 2016, but ran a 15:39.0 in 2015 as a junior.

Smit ran a 15:55.2 at state last year.

Laker girls

The Prior Lake girls’ state history is a little richer. This fall would have been the Lakers’ 15th time at state as a team with its best finish coming in 2009 when it took second to Elk River by just three points (120 to 123).

The program was fourth in both 2005 and 2007 and fifth in 2006.

Other team finishes for the girls over the years include seventh in 1989; ninth in 2010; 10th in 1993, 2001, 2004 and 2008; 13th in 2011; and 15th in 2003.

At this year’s Section 3AA race, Prior Lake won the title with 58 team points, 20 better than runner-up Rosemount. Eastiview was third (87).

The Lakers had two runners in the top four and three in the top 15. Seventh-grader Sara Gastony led the team taking third overall (19:02.9), followed by seventh-grader Isabelle Reinders in fourth (19:18.9).

Seventh-grader Keeley Mohling ended up 13th (19:48.6), followed by eighth-grader Maggie Hoen in 15th (19:50.8) and eighth-grader Layla Vennink in 23rd (20:15.1).

Eighth-grader Annabel McCann was 30th for Prior Lake (20:54.0), and senior Katherine Kaisersatt took 44th (21:20.9).

Hoen and Vennink competed at state as seventh-graders last year, finishing 120th and 135th overall, respectively.

SSC Championships

The Prior Lake boys also won the South Suburban Conference Championships Oct. 10 at Eagan High School.

The Lakers dominated the field, winning with 28 points, while Rosemount was a distant second (83). Smit claimed the individual crown, winning with a time of 16:17.6.

Other finishes for the boys included O’Connor (4th, 16:34.5), Hage (5th, 16:36.0), Nordling (6th, 16:36.6), Vander Weide (12th, 16:48.0), Meagher (24th, 17:08.3) and Ross (37th, 17:41.2).

The Laker girls ended up third at the SSC meet with 92 points. Farmington won (27), followed by Lakeville South (67).

Gastony led the girls with a fifth-place finish (19:22.7), while Mohling was 16th (20:00.9) and Reinders was 17th (20:01.03).

Other finishes included Hoen (24th, 20:34.5), McCann (30th, 20:55.4), Kaisersatt (35th, 21:09.6) and Vennink (39th, 21:32.0).

Tom Schardin covers sports for Savage and Prior Lake. He is dependable, sarcastic and always joking around. Tom enjoys running and swimming and is often busy coaching his two kids' sports teams.

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