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Strong finishes carry Panther boys cross country team to title

St. Croix Central's Brett Johnson took the lead early in last week's race.

The St. Croix Central and Osceola boys cross country teams are expected to be two of the teams that will battle for state tournament berths in Division 2 this season.

That idea was verified last Thursday, when the Central boys needed strong finishes from each of their top five runners to edge Osceola for the team title in the 2009 St. Croix Central Invitational.

Central's boys won the meet with 27 points. Osceola was second with 30 points. Boyceville was far back from the leaders, taking third with 101 points.

The Panther boys won the meet in the final half mile of the race, mainly in the final 300 yards. The top five runners won individual battles in that stretch to move up. Several of those battles were head-to-head with Osceola runners.

Central's Brett Johnson and Osceola's Andrew Rohlman ran shoulder-to-shoulder as the leaders until the final 300 yards of the race. Johnson took off and built a several stride lead. Johnson then backed off his pace while Rohlman kept charging. It took a photo finish to determine that Johnson had gotten the win.

Central coach Bill Emery said he used this finish as a lesson for the whole team about running through the finish line.

Emery said what impressed him most about the boys race was the performance of sophomore Stephen Brunshidle, who moved up to finish third overall.

Central's third and fourth runners, Matt Smith and Alex Halvorson finished well to place fifth and seventh. Senior David Butler passed a Boyceville runner in the final 300 yards to move up one place in the final results.

Emery said he is looking forward to getting sixth runner Jon Mielke healthy so Mielke and Butler can run together to push each other on to better times, the way Smith and Halvorson are pushing each other.

While the boys were meet champions, Emery said he was even more impressed with the effort of the Panther girls in Thursday's meet.

"The girls ran awesome. The girls far exceeded what I expected from them," Emery said.

The Panther girls placed third, finishing 11 points behind first place Prescott.

Abby Delander led the Central girls, placing third. Anna Langer made a move up in the pack to place eighth. Also moving up were Corynne Nelson and Martha Landry, who crossed the finish line together to tie for 11th.

"Seeing them push each other was awesome to see," Emery said of Nelson and Landry working together through the race.

Dave Newman
Dave Newman has been the sports editor at the New Richmond News since 1988. He has covered the action in the Middle Border Conference, Dunn-St. Croix Conference and Big Rivers Conference for nearly 30 years.
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