For Matt Neururer, Saturday will be a first in more ways than one.
When the Pillager Huskies senior competes in Saturday’s Class 1A state cross country meet at St. Olaf College in Northfield, it will be his first state meet. He will also be setting the standard for future Pillager runners to compete in the season’s final race as he will be a trailblazer for the Huskies’ cross country program.
“We haven’t sent anybody down to state so I’m not sure what Matt’s goals should be,” said Pillager head coach Terry Hollingsworth said. “He’s definitely running his best right now. He’s PRd (personal record) twice in the last three races. He wants to get in the 16 minutes. His personal-best time is 17:05 right now.”
Neururer ran that school-record time at the Section 8-1A meet to finish 10th and qualify for state. Also qualifying for state at that meet were Pequot Lakes’ Mike Ryan, Staples-Motley’s Korey Zetah and Wadena-Deer Creek’s Emma Schmitz.
In the Section 7-1A meet, Crosby-Ironton’s Will Goodwin and Jude Severson qualified for state, as did Margaret Stokman.
For all, but S-M’s Zetah and Neururer, it’s a return trip to state.
At last year’s state meet, Severson placed 27th with a time of 16:56, which is still his personal-best time.
Goodwin ran a 17:20 for 53rd place. Ryan placed 63rd in 17:27.1.
Ryan was 105th as a sophomore. He ran a ninth-place 16:57.
Severson, a junior, was 107th two years ago.
“Jude had a period of time this year where he was struggling with illness and it took his body a while to get back to where it started the season at,” said C-I head coach Erika Perpich. “The last couple of meets he’s started to come back. He’s got the drive and he wants to finish well.”
Severson ran a 17:36.9 to finish ninth at sections. Goodwin ran a 17:34.6 for eighth.
“He’s pretty focused and he’s been running really strong,” Perpich said. “It’s nice to see his summer miles paying off right now. It’s nice to see all that work paid off and he’s been strong all season.”
Goodwin’s personal-best time is 17:09. Perpich said both would like to earn all-state honors, which is to finish in the top 25.
All-state seems to be the common goal. That’s what Zetah is going for. S-M head coach Bruce Fuhrman said it’s a realistic goal for his senior.
“It’s going to be tough because there are a lot of really good Class 1A runners this year, so making it into that top 25 will be tough,” Fuhrman said. “We compared the times of all those competing and right now he’s ranked 27th. But that’s his goal. He wants to have his fastest time he’s ever had and be all-state.”
Fuhrman said the three-year varsity runner has come along way to make it to state. He ran an eighth-place time of 16:57 at sections.
“He was in the middle of the pack for our team last year and has worked hard this season,” said the coach. “He’s got a great chance to reach his goals. He’s been a great kid to work with. He came into the season in shape and that makes a big difference when you can start at that level with an athlete.”
This is Schmitz’s second state meet. She ran a 16:19.9 to finish 82nd last year as a freshman.
“She wants to do better than she did last year,” said W-DC head coach Terry Olson. “That’s what I want, too. Basically, the thing is to keep improving and have a good race. She can do that.”
Olson said Schmitz has struggled with consistency this year, but ran a ninth-place 16:08 in the Section 8 meet. Last year’s experience will help, he said.
“She’s gone through it once already,” Olson said. “She knows what to expect. She’ll have a better idea of how fast they take off and that kind of stuff. It’s a valuable thing to have that experience.”
Stokman, who last competed at state as a seventh-grader, finished sixth at the Section 7 meet with a time of 16:03.8.
“She’s become a lot stronger,” Perpich said. “She is one that takes the pain to the next level. When she’s running she doesn’t let that get in the way. That’s really allowed her to become a stronger runner.”
Stokman ran a 17:40.4 for 141st place at state two years ago.