Panther boys win D-SC, with inspiration from the Central girls
The St. Croix Central boys knew they had to give every ounce of energy they had in the 2009 Dunn-St. Croix Conference Cross Country Meet last Thursday.
They couldn't have asked for any better inspiration than watching the Panther girls run in the first race of the conference meet. Following the race, half the Panther girls were either crying in pain or were physically ill. The boys knew they had to live up to that effort.
Central's boys repeated as D-SC champions, winning by a wide margin in the 2009 meet, held at Colfax's Whitetail Golf Course.
Central junior Brett Johnson ran another amazing race, winning the conference championship by more than a minute over his nearest competitor.
Central's boys aimed high in this meet. Sophomore Stephen Brunshidle tried to take second place in the race and he held onto second place for most of the way. He ended up fourth, the second first team all-conference runner for the Panthers.
Senior David Butler wanted to be a first team all-conference in the worst way. He was able to move up as high as seventh in the race, but couldn't hang on, ending up 10th overall. His time was a 30-second improvement over his previous best.
Joining Butler in a pack of finishers were sophomores Matt Smith and Alex Halvorson. Smith placed ninth and Halvorson 11th, giving the Panthers five of the top 11 finishers and easily locking up the conference title.
Panther coach Bill Emery said the boys were clearly moved by the performance of the girls team. After the girls race, Butler carried teammate Abby Delander from the finish line to the team tent because she had been so physically spent after completing the girls race.
Emery said the boys changed the usual chant that they do before each race.
"This time they cheered for Abby in their breakdown," Emery said.
The Panther girls hoped they could upset Colfax heading into Thursday's meet. Despite their best effort, the Panther girls ended up taking third. Colfax would have been difficult for any team to beat. The Viking girls were exceptional, taking the title with 29 points.
Delander and Anna Langer ran together among the top 10 runners for the first half of the race. Midway through the race it became clear that Delander was having health issues.
Seeing Delander's difficulties only inspired her teammates more. Langer moved up to challenge a trio of Colfax runners. Langer ended up as the Panthers' lead runner, placing eighth.
The trio of Martha Landry, Jenna Ganther and Corynne Nelson ran together for much of the race. Landry made another of her strong finishes, moving up to place 12th overall. Ganther finished 16th and Nelson 17th. Delander ended up as Central's fifth runner, placing 21st.
Emery said he was filled with emotion in watching the effort the girls put into the race, especially the team's four seniors.
"It was fun and hard to watch at the same time," he said.
The Panthers will run in the WIAA Division 2 sectional meet at Amery next Friday. The girls race begins at 4 p.m., with the boys race scheduled for 4:30 p.m.
Emery said both Central teams are looking at what they need to do to get to the state meet. The girls team is in a logjam of strong teams. He said the girls are targeting Somerset as a team they have to beat to have any chance to advance.
The Panther boys are looking to return to state after making the first trip to state as a team in school history in 2008. Emery said Ashland is one of the main obstacles for the Panthers. He said Osceola and Amery, the two top teams from the Middle Border Conference, will be ready to challenge the Panthers for one of the two state berths from this sectional meet.