Cross country: Zimmerman joins the fun at state today with Elk, Thunder and Sting runners

Zimmerman's first three state qualifiers beamed after the section meet. From left are Connor Gagne, Nicole Jurik and Jordan Jeandron. (Photo by Mike Back)
Zimmerman’s first three state qualifiers beamed after the section meet. From left are Connor Gagne, Nicole Jurik and Jordan Jeandron. (Photo by Mike Back)


by Bruce Strand, Sports editor

For the first time, all four schools covered by the Star News have entrants in the state cross country meet being held today, Saturday, Nov. 2, at St. Olaf College in Northfield.

That includes the first three state qualifiers in Zimmerman’s third-year program. They are junior Nicole Jurik and sophomores Connor Gagne and Jordan Jeandron, who all qualified individually at Section 7AA in Cloquet on Oct. 24.

“These three kids bought into my off season training and ran a lot this summer,” said coach Mike Back. “It paid off with personal bests for all of them at the right time. They have become great team leaders.”

Back said their achievement means a lot to the program.

“It is great to have kids represent Zimmerman at the state meet,” he said, “but I would really like to get our whole team there. The success of these three should help in the recruiting of new and more runners.”

The Elk River girls and Spectrum girls both qualified as a team, each for the second straight year, with runners-up finishes, the Elks in 7AA at Cloquet and the Sting in 5A at Milaca.

The Elks had Rachel Ness, Kennedy Warner, Annica Carr, Maria Brown and Gracie Scheid all finishing in the top 25.

“Our times were very good,” said coach Mike Niziolek. “Our goal was to get all seven under 16 minutes, and we had six. Once again,  our depth paid off. Our seventh runner beat everyone else’s seventh.”

Elk River also has Lucas Trapp qualifying for the third straight year, still just a sophomore.

Spectrum’s top five were Kayla Zimmerman, Elizabeth Hackbarth, Brittany Waterhouse, Becca Peterson, and Marissa Kuik, finishing eighth through 35th.
Spectrum also has its first male state qualifier and just and eighth-grader, Zackary Anderson, who placed ninth at the sectional.

“The girls have been running well. We gave second-ranked Trinity a good run, too, at conference,” said coach Rick Peterson. “And we got our first boy in state!”

Rogers senior Reed Parent made the best run of anyone in these four schools at his sectional meet with a personal-best 15:58.6 (by 11 seconds) for second place in 5AA at Anoka High School. Parent hopes to improve on last year’s strong 26th place finish. The top 25 are all-staters.

The Elk River girls, and Jurik, are up first in the state meet as girls Class AA runs at 10 a.m., followed by boys Class AA at 11 a.m., girls Class A at 1 p.m. and boys Class A at 2 p.m.