Johnson gets return ticket to state, but Panther boys CC team misses outBrett Johnson will be returning for a second chance to run in the WIAA State Cross Country Championships, but his St. Croix Central teammates will have to settle for being spectators at the 2009 state meet.
By: Dave Newman, New Richmond News
Brett Johnson will be returning for a second chance to run in the WIAA State Cross Country Championships, but his St. Croix Central teammates will have to settle for being spectators at the 2009 state meet.
The Panther boys were hoping to make a return trip to the state meet after being the first Panther team to reach the state cross country meet in 2008. Unfortunately, they got caught up in a logjam of closely bunched teams, finishing in fifth place. The top two teams qualify for the state meet. Central finished seven points behind Northwestern, the second place team at the Amery Division 2 sectional meet last Friday.
Johnson earned his place at state by finishing second in the sectional meet on Friday. He continued his season-long battle with Osceola’s Andrew Rohlman for the top spot in the meet. This time Rohlman was able to get the edge, winning in 17:28. Johnson took second place in 17:32.
Central sophomore Stephen Brunshidle nearly joined Johnson in the state field. Brunshidle placed 13th at the sectional meet, missing qualifying for state by 20 seconds.
Joining them in the varsity five for the Panthers were Matt Smith at 24th, David Butler at 35th and Alex Halvorson at 40th.
Even though the Panthers won’t be running at state, they will be in attendance. Johnson requested that his team be there with him.
“We’re all about sticking with the routine,” said Central coach Bill Emery.
Johnson finished 54th at the state meet in 2008, but his sights are set much higher this season.
“He’s set his own goal of being on the podium (the top seven in the race) and it’s possible. He’s right on the cusp,” said Emery, who has compared Johnson’s times with the other state entries from around the state.
Emery said there is another reason for taking the entire team to state. Butler is the only senior who ran on the Panther varsity this year. Emery wants all the younger runners to experience the atmosphere of state. Seeing the best runners in the state may serve as motivation. And if the Panthers return to state next year, the meet won’t be as overwhelming because the Panthers have already been through the experience.
This was the final race for veteran Panther runners Anna Langer, Martha Landry and Abby Delander. The three seniors were the top finishers for the Panthers as they placed ninth among the 16 teams in the sectional meet.
Emery said the senior trio has been a large part of the Panthers’ success throughout their careers.
“We will miss them, they were a lot of fun,” Emery said.
Langer finished 19th at the sectional meet to lead the Panthers.
“She’s been a rock for us. She’s a pretty calm person, she doesn’t get emotional over things,” Emery said.
Landry placed 32nd for the Panthers and Delander placed 46th. They were followed by Corynne Nelson in 47th and Jenna Ganther in 52nd place.
While the Panthers graduate a large share of their girls team, Emery has been preparing for this development. He said he has a number of high school and middle school girls interested in coming out for the team next year.
“It might not be a rebuild, it could be a reload,” Emery said.