Fresh competition for St. Croix Central runners at Osceola
The first look at the Osceola Chieftains gave the St. Croix Central cross country runners plenty to think about.
The Panthers took second place in both halves of the Osceola Invitational on Saturday. The Central boys finished behind Minnehaha Academy in their half of the race, with Osceola in third place. Osceola won the girls half of the meet, with Central close behind them.
The results from Saturday left Central coach Bill Emery with as many questions as answers. At last year's WIAA sectional meet, it was Osceola's boys that won the championship, with Central in second place. Emery wondered out loud whether the Panthers were seeing Osceola's best lineup on Saturday, or were the Chieftains missing runners who will make them more of a force later in the season.
Emery also wondered what to make of the girls varsity race. It was the sixth race on a very hot day and he said his girls looked drained by the time they reached their starting line.
The exception to that statement is always senior Marie Hamlin. A handful of girls started the race ahead of Hamlin. Not to worry. Hamlin's strong pace is gaining her more confidence in every race. By the one-mile mark, she was far ahead and her lead continued to grow. By the finish line, she was 55 seconds ahead of her nearest competitor.
Emery said he is looking forward to the next few meets, which will be against larger pools of teams. He said it will be a chance for Hamlin to showcase her skills, as there will likely be college coaches in attendance.
"She'll obviously be running next year," Emery said, saying that Hamlin is looking for a college that offers chemical engineering, the major she plans to pursue.
The rest of the Panthers did pretty well too. Sophomores Mya Kizer and Sydney Carlson finished seventh and ninth. Seniors Kourtney Labeause, Mariah Withuski and Claire Moll finished in a pack, placing 20th, 21st and 23rd out of 65 runners.
Junior Erik Collins and sophomore Jakob Eggen were the lead pair of runners for the Panther boys on Saturday, placing fifth and seventh among 75 runners. Cougar Holder, Riley Hackbarth and Jacob Murtha formed a pack, coming in 14th, 16th and 17th.
Emery said he was pleased with the work of the upperclassmen boys, saying the younger runners in the lineup are still in the learning process.