Central's Johnson aims to win state cross country titleSt. Croix Central senior Brett Johnson ran away with the boys cross country sectional championship and he hopes to produce the exact same result at this Friday’s WIAA State Cross Country Championships.
St. Croix Central senior Brett Johnson ran away with the boys cross country sectional championship and he hopes to produce the exact same result at this Friday’s WIAA State Cross Country Championships.
The Panther boys put forth an outstanding effort to place third among the 12 teams in last Friday’s Amery Division 2 sectional meet.
Johnson wasn’t challenged at the sectional meet. Ashland’s Josh Smith took second place, 22 seconds behind Johnson. Johnson will be running at state for the third straight year. As a sophomore he placed 54th. Last year, he took 11th place. Nine of the 10 runners who placed above him last year were seniors.
Central coach Bill Emery said Johnson has been one of the top-ranked runners in the state all season and he hopes to fulfill that faith on Saturday.
“He hopes to win state, that’s his goal,” Emery said. “I think his chances are pretty good.”
Emery said a key for Johnson will be his approach to the race. He will need to fight off any challengers and “run with a chip on his shoulder,” according to Emery.
The rest of the Panthers will be at the state meet as Johnson’s personal cheering section.
The Panthers were hoping to get two runners to state but junior Stephen Brunshidle was injured halfway through the race.
“Stephen was in the top 10 when he got hurt. He was right on the cusp to be the fifth runner going on (to state as an individual qualifier),” Emery said.
Brunshidle kept running and while favoring the ankle, was still able to place 21st. Junior Alex Halvorson kept up his steady improvement, passing Brunshidle to place 19th.
Brett Briggs took 35th and Jon Mielke took 50th to round out the Panthers’ scoring runners.
“The boys did well to take third. We’re happy with that outcome,” Emery said.
The injury-depleted Panther girls placed 13th among the 17 teams in the meet. The Panthers were running without senior Corynne Nelson who is sidelined with two stress fractures in her foot.
One of the most courageous efforts of the season was by Central’s fifth runner, senior Hayley Ray. All season Ray has been running with a painful injury to the “inner lining muscles inside her ribcage,” according to Emery. It hasn’t stopped Ray from running, though she’s often in excessive pain by the end of races.
That didn’t stop Ray from putting on a full-scale sprint in the home stretch to beat a St. Croix Falls runner who was trying to pass her. Ray did hold off the SCF girl, but she was in excruciating pain following the race.
Emery said he considered suggesting to Ray that she give up running, but he said he couldn’t take that away from an athlete who showed such drive to complete each race.
The Panthers were led in the race by freshman Courtney Kramer and Hope Hoolihan, who placed 17th and 46th. Sophomore Abbie Webb placed 83rd and junior Jenna Ganther placed 88th. Emery said he expects that quartet to be the nucleus of a strong girls team next season. He has high expectations for both teams in 2011.
“We’re still a pretty young team. The future is still pretty golden for us,” Emery said.