by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Elk River runners Chelsea Schlegel and Rachel Ness qualified for the state cross country meet Thursday while the Elks two-year run as Section 7AA team champs ended.
Schlegel, a junior, finished eighth in 15:08 at Cloquet Golf Club, and Ness, an eighth-grader, took 10th in 15:15. They’ll run at “state” in Northfield on Saturday, Nov. 5.
“Chelsea ran a little faster this year, and Rachel ran an exceptional race, too,” said coach Mike Niziolek, elated that the Elks would continue to have a presence at state.
Elk River was state champion in 2009 and placed fourth last year. They’ve graduated some top-notch runners, and two of last year’s state runners went out for different sports this year. But several youngsters emerged.
“When it’s a rebuilding year and you still take third at sectionals, that’s pretty good,” said Niziolek.
Schlegel placed 16th and Ness 42nd at the state meet last year.
Forest Lake edged Andover 54 to 56 for the section championship, each advancing to state.
The Elks had 82 points. The rest of the 15-team field was far behind the top three. Duluth East had 150 and Grand Rapids 164.
Nicole Heitzman of Andover was individual champion in 14:32.
The Elks got a nice boost from seventh-grader Kennedy Warner, who placed 19th in 15:43. Warner was a replacement for sophomore Kayley Erdahl, who was ill.
Amber Haugen, a junior, was 23rd (16:00), with freshman Gabby Jung 25t (16:05), freshman Aly Manthey 26th (16:06), and seventh-grader Maria Brown 52nd (15:41).