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Section 3AA cross country: Evenocheck, Grim, boys team qualify for state

Rosemount will once again send a large group to the Class 2A State Cross Country Meet Saturday.

The Irish boys, ranked second in the state, defended their section title 58-66 over runner-up Burnsville and Liz Evenocheck and Hannah Grim snuck into the top 10 in the girls race to qualify for state as individuals at Wednesday afternoon's Section 3AA Championships at the University of Minnesota Les Bolstad Golf Course in Falcon Heights.

The boys team brought its No. 2 through 5 runners across the finish line in a span of nine seconds as it knocked off a front-heavy Blaze team that placed three runners in the top 5 and four ahead of Rosemount's No. 2 runner Trevor Capra. Burnsville's undoing turned out to be its No. 5 runner, who came in 43rd, 28 places behind Irish No. 5 runner Chandler Dye.

"We did what we needed to do to advance to the state meet. We ran conservatively and stayed in control,"?Rosemount coach Chris Harder said. "The coaches got a little nervous the last mile, but the guys didn't panic and moved well to secure not only a trip to state, but the win as well. We have a lot of respect for Burnsville and Eastview, so we did not want to open ourselves up to beating ourselves by going out too hard. We will adjust our strategy for the state meet."

Senior Nathan Rock led the Irish with a seventh-place time of 16 minutes, 3 seconds on the 5,000-meter course. The top six runners in a talented field all broke the 16-minute barrier, led by individual champion Jan Ketterson of Bloomington Jefferson, who reached the finish in 15:49 to edge Abdullahi Salan of Burnsville by one second.

Salan's teammates Cole O'Brien and Faysol Mamoud came in fifth and sixth, respectively, and sophomore Ali Ahmed followed close behind, giving the Blaze four runners in the top 10.

That's when the Irish wave took the race over. Capra came in 11th in 16:22, one second ahead of Nick Couillard in 12th place. Calvin Lehn made it three straight Rosemount runners to cross the finish line with a 13th-place 16:26 clocking and Dye sprinted in with a 15th-place time of 16:31.

The deep Irish even brought their No. 6 and 7 runners -- Tyler Blumke and Sam Ivanecky -- ahead of Burnsville's final counting scorer. Blumke was 19th out of 104 runners in 16:37 and Ivanecky, just a freshman, was 24th in 17:03.

"Our team needs to step up collectively and we have the individuals to do it," Harder said. "We are looking forward to the challenge at St. Olaf. We ended up on the podium our last three trips and we would like to do the same this year."

The Rosemount girls just missed their third straight state team qualification, placing third with 86 points.

Eagan topped runner-up Prior Lake 44-69 for the team title.

"Our girls ran a tremendous race. I am really proud of their efforts,"?Harder said. "We were a distant third coming into the meet, but the girls showed their determination and toughness and made the race much closer."

Evenocheck and Grim each qualified as individuals, extending their seasons to next Saturday's Class 2A State Meet at St. Olaf College in Northfield. Evenocheck, a freshman, placed ninth out of 102 runners on the 4,000-meter course in a season-best time of 14:55. Grim, a sophomore, was one place back in a time of 14:58.

"Liz Evenocheck and Hannah Grim battled for the last two qualifying spots. The section has a lot of top individuals, so they obviously needed to run very well to qualify,"?Harder said. "Both broke 15 minutes for the first time in their careers. Liz and Hannah ran their best when they needed to the most."

Junior Taylor Rambo placed 13th in a personal-best time of 15:19 and senior Tori Grund returned from injury to place 19th in 15:33 in the final race of her prep career.

"(Grund) missed most of the season with a leg injury, worked hard cross training, and then gave a complete effort at sections to keep our team hopes alive,"?Harder said. "Tori has had a wonderful career for the Irish, being named all-conference multiple times and being one of our top runners on our state meet teams."

Lizzie Thooft (35th, 15:59), Taybri Irving (44th, 16:20) and senior Emily Davis (72nd, 17:05) also competed for the Irish.

The Class 2A?State Meet is Saturday at St. Olaf College in Northfield. Evenocheck and Grim will take off from the starting line at 10 a.m. and the boys race will follow at 11 a.m.

"Both girls have a chance to earn all-state runners by being in the top 25. They will need to run similar to their section performances to have a chance,"?Harder said. " The girls field has a few really elite runners, with a very deep field about 30 seconds back. Liz and Hannah will be part of a large pack trying to be in the top 25. They have a very reasonable chance to do it."