Eight participants from the Class 1A state boys' cross country meet begin the outdoor track and field season today.
Weather permitting, Joe Radinovich of Crosby-Ironton and Zach Solinger of Pierz will compete at the Aitkin Invitational. Travis Bristow of Pine River-Backus and Rocky Jantzen of Wadena-Deer Creek compete against Chad Brever, David Reichel, Dan Huebsch and Dan Freeman of Staples-Motley at the Rainmaker Invitational in Staples.
Last fall, at the state cross country meet at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Radinovich led all area runners with a seventh-place finish.
Brever, Reichel, Huebsch and Freeman helped the Cardinals capture the cross country team title for the sixth time in seven years. Those four will give the Cardinals depth and quality in the distance events. Depth helped the Cardinals capture the Section 8, Class 1A state True Team title last year
"We're hurting a little bit," said Cardinals coach Ryan Beachy. "Chad had surgery on his dislocated shoulder, Huebsch has been injured, Freeman has been injured.
"This year is a little different for us because we've had some injuries. We've only had two distance runners practice every week so far this year."
Individually, Brever competed in the 3200-meter run at the state meet last spring and this fall finished ninth at the state cross country meet. He'll be the leader of the Cardinals' distance runners once his shoulder recovers.
Solinger finished 13th in the state 1600 run last year as a freshman. This year, the sophomore is back and opens up with a formidable first week. After the Aitkin meet, Solinger and Pierz travel to Sartell for another invitational Friday.
"He's been (to state) two straight times now, but this year what he really wants, he's never finished in the medals or ribbons," said Pierz coach Craig Johnshoy. "He wants to place in at least the top eight."
Johnshoy likes to switch Solinger's events for every meet. He'll either run the 1600 or 3200 and maybe run the 800 run or help the 4x800 relay or the 4x400 relay.
Solinger's state experience and drive to place this year is setting a trend for the rest of the Pierz team.
"The distance guys look up to him a lot," said Johnshoy. "With his work ethic and him being so young too, the real young kids look up to him.
"They want to do what he's doing. They're trying to emulate what he does."
Jantzen and Radinovich both helped their 4x800 relays to the state track meet last year.
Radinovich, a junior, and C-I finished second while Jantzen and W-DC finished fifth.
As a sophomore, Radinovich was in the shadow of teammate Sam Anderson, now at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. Radinovich made a name for himself quickly during the cross country season, and should continue that progress in track.
C-I hosts Aitkin, Pequot Lakes and PR-B among others Friday for its Anniversary Invitational.
Jantzen, too, was hidden in the shadows of former teammate Adam Asfeld, now running at North Dakota State University. Jantzen, a junior, will run the 4x800 and 3200 run today if the meet goes as scheduled.
Jantzen's state experience should help the Wolverines.
"He knows what you need to do to get there," said Terry Olson, assistant track and field coach and head cross country coach at W-DC. "He knows it's realistic and he has expectations of going back."
With all the S-M runners, Radinovich, Bristow and Jantzen, the Mid-State Conference meet will again be competitive in the distance events.
"The Mid-State has always been tough," said Olson. "The distance events have always had a strong field."
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