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Boys cross country: Title by tiebreaker

Rosemount boys cross country coach Chris Harder knows the importance of overall team depth.

Throughout this season, Harder has praised his team's depth and preached the importance of each runner doing his part. It was never more evident than last week's Class 2A, Section 3 championship meet.

Thanks to John Evenocheck's 23rd-place finish, the Irish were section champions. While the first five runners in the lineup count for team scoring, tiebreakers come down to the sixth runner.

In this case for the Irish, Evenocheck finished in 16 minutes, 56.9 seconds and ahead of Burnsville's sixth runner.

"We can't say enough about the determination of John Evenocheck," Harder said. "This is his first year on the varsity. We talk about the need for our sixth and seventh man to finish strong and their role as pushers and as a tiebreaker.

"We got a first-hand lesson in that at the section level. Four years ago, we lost by two to Eden Prairie for the Section 6AA title. The situation was similar as it was this year, except we didn't outsprint the Eden Prairie runner and force the tiebreaker, which we would've won. This year, John was able to provide that tie."

Evenocheck, as the sixth Rosemount runner across the line, held off Burnsville's fifth runner, allowing the Irish to tie the score and Evenocheck's time eventually held up as the tiebreaker. Rosemount won the section title with 54 team points and Evenocheck's tiebreaker and advanced to the state meet for the first time since 2007.

Burnsville also advanced after scoring 54 team points.

"Our goal was to treat this like a qualifying race, so we would've been happy with either first or second, but we are glad we won," Harder said.

It's the Irish's fifth appearance at the state meet. This season is the first time in Rosemount history that the boys and girls teams both qualified for state in the same season.

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

Rosemount knew it would be tight at the section meet with three top-10 teams in the section. The Irish finished the season rated No. 3, followed by No. 4 Burnsville and No. 8 Eastview. The Lightning finished third at the section meet with 69 points.

"The boys race was tight as expected with three ranked teams battling for two spots," Harder said. "Even though we were ranked higher coming in, we expected at least a tough three-way battle plus teams like Jefferson and Eagan could contend on a given day because they each have two possible front runners."

However, the Irish had the all-important depth.

Shane McCallum led the way for the Irish, finishing second overall in 15:56.4. Nathan Rock had a time of 16:11.6, good for sixth. Chandler Dye finished in 16:21, placing ninth.

"Shane McCallum set a nice pace for our pack and that really set the tone for our team," Harder said. "We lost a few spots the last mile, but overall we are pleased with our performance. Nathan Rock continued to be solid and Chandler Dye is emerging as a real key. We also like the consistency of Calvin Lehn. He's been reliable in that second pack of the race."

Calvin Lehn crossed the line in 16:40 to finish 15th. Trevor Capra placed 22nd, just ahead of Evenocheck, finishing in 16:56.1.

"Our depth was needed to compete with Burnsville," Harder said.

Tyler Henkemeyer also ran for the Irish, placing 25th in 17:08.