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Girls cross country: Late sprint carries Irish to section crown

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The Rosemount girls cross country team entered this season with the goal of returning to the Class 2A state meet, following up on the Irish's trip last season, their first since 1981.

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Rosemount returned several runners from last year's 10th-place finish at state, and hoped experience would allow the team to capitalize on the opportunity for consecutive appearances at St. Olaf College, site of the state meet.

Having been there before, surely the Rosemount runners knew what it would take to qualify for another trip to the state meet. The Irish showed last week they knew exactly what was needed -- a big, late push.

"We were down by seven and in third place at the 2-mile mark, but won a lot of kicking battles down the stretch," Rosemount coach Chris Harder said. "It started with Hannah Grim going by three (runners) in the final 100 meters and finished with Laura Dennis passing six in the final 800 meters."

With the final push, the Irish won the Class 2A, Section 3 title last week with 68 points, beating Prior Lake's 73 points. It will be the their third appearance at the state meet and marks the first time in Rosemount history that the boys and girls teams each qualified for state in the same season.

The state meet is Saturday at St. Olaf College in Northfield. The Class 2A girls race is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. following the boys race at 1 p.m.

Prior Lake took the second team qualification for state with its second-place showing at Valleywood Golf Course. Eagan finished third with 75 points. After a second-place finish last season, the Irish pulled out the close victory for their first section title.

"On paper, we had Prior Lake for about 70 points, so that was the number we had in mind when we planned our race strategy," Harder said. "We got under that number, but not exactly how we planned it. Due to some injuries, we juggled our lineup. It worked out better than expected."

Grim's final kick helped her finish fifth overall, crossing the line in 15 minutes, 15.5 seconds.

"Hannah ran well near the front and really competed down the stretch," Harder said. "I've known her since she was a fourth-graders in basketball and that competitiveness is always there. When she sees the finish line, you can see the fire light up in her eyes."

But Harder indicated the need for lineup changes, and senior Shade Pratt was the biggest factor.

Pratt, a member of the Rosemount girls soccer team during the fall season, competed in her first cross country race of the season and placed 11th, covering the course in 15:25.3.

"Shade Pratt has been working out with the girls when soccer doesn't conflict," Harder said. "She is a tremendous talent. Shade ran much better than expected. We were hoping she could offset our injuries and be our fifth runner. She is a team-first individual.

"Last spring, she volunteered to run the 4x800 even though it might take something out of her for the 400. Shade is Rosemount through and through."

Tori Grund started fast en route to a 16th-place finish in 15:39.9. Right behind Grund, Ashley Comstock finished in 15:40.9 to place 17th.

"Tori Grund really held on the last half mile," Harder said. "She got out fast, paid a little for it the second mile, but then really grinded it out down the stretch. Tori is a tough girl.

"Ashley Comstock is one of our markers. She is known for her sense of pace and we have other girls key off of her. Ashley showed something more at the section meet with her kick. She outkicked two Eagan runners the last 400 meters."

Laura Dennis rounded out the team scoring by placing 19th with a time of 15:43.6.

Thana Hussein placed 30th in 16:10.1 and Taylor Rambo finished in 16:31.1.

"Our sixth and seventh got in the mix early and helped push our top five girls," Harder said. "Both could be in our top five this weekend."

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