by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Three of the four schools in the Star News area will be represented at the state cross country meet on Saturday.
That includes the Spectrum girls, who placed a surprising second in Section 5A to earn their school’s first-ever state trip in an sport.
The meet at St. Olaf College in Northfield will start at 10 a.m. with Class A boys, followed by Class A girls at 11 a.m., Class AA boys at 1 p.m. and Class AA girls at 2 p.m.
The Sting will compete in Class A. The Elk River boys and girls both qualified in Class AA. Rogers has an individual entrant with Reed Parent qualifying for the second time.
“It’s really fun for us to help continue the strong tradition of cross country in Elk River,” said coach Rick Peterson. “I used to coach against some of those Elk River teams (with Maple Grove).”
The Elks have a boys and girls team at state together for the first time ever. The boys last went in 2003, and girls are making the fifth trip since then. The boys were champions and the girls runners-up in Section 7AA.
Spectrum was led by seventh-grader Elizabeth Hackbarth at section as she placed eighth. The Sting had five of the to 20 in a section that had last year’s state champion, St. Cloud Cathedral, and state runner-up. Annandale Spectrum and Cathedral were 1-2-3 at the section in Pierz.
“Elizabeth really took it up another notch. All the girls did,” said Peterson.
Spectrum is certainly a surprise state entrant. Season highlights previously were winning a small field at a Rogers meet and placing second a six-team meet that combined two conferences.
Hackbarth joined the team two weeks into the season, because she was playing baseball earlier.
“She is small, but strong and fast, and has good endurance, and her confidence is growing,” said the coach. “She has a chance to develop into something special.”
Kayla Zimmerman has led the Sting most of the year before Hackbarth took over at the sectional. Also in their top five are Brittany Waterhouse, Noelle Diekman and Becca Peterson.
The Elk boys are led by the Trapp brothers, freshman Lucas and senior Ryan. The top seven at sectionals also included Breck Hickman, Nate Webster, Alex Holm, Sam Gearou and Joe Martin.
The Elk girls are led by freshman Rachel Ness, who was second runner-up, and eighth-grader Kennedy Warner. The top seven at section also included Anna Haugen, Maria Brown, Gabbi Jung, Gracie Scheid and Aly Manthei.
The Stillwater boys are defending AA champs and top-ranked. Defending “A” boys champ St. Cloud Cathedral returns although Perham is ranked first. In girls Class A, where Annandale and Spectrum denied 2011 champ Cathedral a return trip, the top-ranked team is Esko. Eagan is ranked first in Class AA girls with 2011 champ Monticello not returning. Both girls defending individual champs are back, Blake’s Clare Flanagan in “A” and Stillwater’s Maria Hauger in “AA.” Hauger, who beat Elk great Emma Bates by one second in 2009 for her first title, is seeking her fourth in a row.