by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
One year after sweeping team and individual golds, the Elk River girls cross country team had to settle for a fourth-place team finish and a silver medal by Rachel Ness in the Northwest Suburban Conference on Thursday.
Coon Rapids, Anoka, and Maple Grove were 1-2-3, and Coon Rapids freshman Bryna DelCastillo beat Ness, the defending champion, to the tape by 13 seconds, at Elk River Golf Club.
“We didn’t run our best, as a team, but we did pretty good,” said Elk sophomore Kennedy Warner, who was second on the team and ninth in the meet. “Everyone was a little upset and they didn’t think we did as well as last year, but we still have sections.”
Ness, who won a neck-and-neck thriller over a two-time champion last year as a freshman, was battling a side-ache this year and finished in 15:24.5, compared to last year’s 14:51.
DelCastillo took the lead right away and cruised home in 15:11.8 with Ness beating everyone else in the 77-girl field. In the top five were Andover’s Madeline McKeefry (15:27.9), Armstrong’s Anna Nachbor (15:32.4) and Anoka’s Alexis Fritz (15:47.6).
The Elks had three all-conference runners (top 22) in Ness, Kennedy (15:59.4) and seventh-grader Annica Carr (16:20.2) in 22nd. Kailey Erdahl, a senior, was 34th (16:40.9) and freshman Maria Brown 40th (16:49.9).
“The girls ran well and gave it their best shot,” said coach Mike Niziolek. “Some girls had a very good race and some didn’t. The goal is to have seven girls all running well the same day. Then we’ll be tough to beat.”
There were two ties broken by sixth-runner tiebreakers. Coon Rapids and Anoka both had 81, and Maple Grove and Elk River both had 107. Following were Centennial 114, Armstrong 138, Andover 155, Osseo 172, Park Center 204, Blaine 269 and Champlin Park 303.
The weather was sunny and about 77 degrees, great for everyone else but sticky for runners.
“It was so hot, like August,” said Warner. “It feels really good to be in the shade today.”
Niziolek noted that Elk sophomore Gracie Scheid won the conference JV race with 16:26, which would have been fourth on the team had she run varsity. Scheid, who was one of the Elks top five when they won the section last year, has had some trouble with her calf muscles, he said.
Next for the Elks is Section 7AA at Cloquet on Thursday, Sept. 24.