Mega meet is mega fun for St. Croix Central cross country
The first experience at the Milaca Mega Meet was an eye-opener for the St. Croix Central cross country teams.
"Crazy, there were people everywhere," said Central coach Bill Emery.
The mega meet lives up to its name. In the junior varsity races, there were more than 700 runners competing. With 18 total races, it's safe to say there were thousands of total runners competing that day.
The Central varsity teams competed in Division 3 in the tournament and the results were very promising. The Panther girls placed third among the 24 teams in their race, while the Panther boys ranked ninth among the 26 teams competing in the Division 3 race.
Central senior Marie Hamlin and sophomore Mya Kizer both gave outstanding performances. Hamlin was defeated for the first time this season, but not without a battle. She lost by 12 seconds to Zumbrota eighth grader Natasha Sortland. Central coach Bill Emery said Hamlin raced extremely well against Sortland, who is getting national attention for her running. In Minnesota, athletes can begin competing at the varsity level in seventh grade. The coaches have been seeking out races where Hamlin and the other top Panthers would be challenged and they found it here.
Kizer also rose to the challenge, placing 11th out of 169 runners. Hamlin completed the course in 19:06 and Kizer in 20:07, ranking among the best times in both of their careers.
"It was a great performance by our top two," Emery said.
Sydney Carlson and Kourtney Lebeause ran together as the Panthers' third and fourth runners, taking 41st and 42nd. Mariah Withuski and Claire Moll teamed up as the fifth and sixth runners, placing 69th and 72nd.
Sophomore Jakob Eggen was the leading finisher for the Panther boys, placing 32nd. Sophomore Cougar Holder was 45th and senior Erik Collins 49th. Emery sounded pleased that Holder is returning to the form he showed at the end of his freshman season.
The Hackbarth brothers were the fourth and fifth place runners for the Panthers. Senior Riley Hackbarth was 65th and freshman Colin Hackbarth took 76th. There were 181 runners competing in the race.
The Panthers should be getting comfortable running in large races and they'll get another chance at it this Saturday. That's when they'll be running at the Roy Griak Invitational at the University of Minnesota. The Griak meet is usually the same weekend as Milaca, but it was moved back a week this year. Emery said he isn't sure which of the two races he'd do in the future, but said he likes having the ability to showcase runners like Hamlin to college coaches at the Griak meet.