After winning the past two Class 1A state cross country championships, and six titles in the past seven years, one would think the Staples-Motley Cardinals boys' cross country team would be the team everyone is talking about.
Instead, the S-M boys have been overshadowed by the girls' team and its amazing season this fall. Even though they're ranked No. 1 in 1A, the boys have flown under the radar, which is fine with them.
"The boys are unbelievably focused," S-M coach Gene Mattila said. "They really have their act together. They like the fact that they're not getting the notoriety. We're healthy and we have a lot of miles in."
Heading into the state meet, Mattila said his team's focus is to have five runners finish in less than 17 minutes. That may be a lofty goal, but if any team can do it, it's the Cardinals.
Seniors Chad Brever and Isaac Landecker are S-M's best chance at individual titles. Brever placed ninth last year and Landecker 20th. Both finished the season ranked in the top 12 in 1A. Landecker was rated sixth and Brever seventh.
"Isaac and Chad both have a chance to be in the top eight," said Mattila. "They could even be higher. It depends on how the race unfolds. But their focus is on the team aspect.
"Isaac's strength is that he maintains a specific speed. He runs his butt off from start to finish. Chad has more speed and can do some surging with hopes of overtaking the leaders in the end."
Senior Dan Freeman and junior Dan Huebsch also have opportunities to finish high for the Cardinals. Mattila said Huebsch is the team's fastest runner and Freeman is running as well as he ever has.
Final state coaches association rankings
Class 1A boys
1. Staples-Motley; 2. Perham; 3. Eveleth-Gilbert; 4. La Crescent; 5. East Grand Forks; 6. St. Cloud Cathedral; 7. Warroad; 8. Minnehaha Academy; 9. Concordia Academy; 10. Southwest Christian; 11. United South Central; 12. Fairmont.
1. Matt Damico, East Grand Forks; 2. Chris Erichsen, Kingsland; 3. Bill Shields, Blue Earth Area; 4. Mike Torchia, Roch. Lourdes; 5. Seth Webinger, La Crescent; 6. Isaac Landecker, Staples-Motley; 7. Chad Brever, Staples-Motley; 8. Zach Rebuns, Pelican Rapids; 9. Joe Radinovich, Crosby-Ironton; 10. Chad Janiszecki, Canby-Minneota/Lincoln HI; 11. Peter Ferlis, Holy Family; 12. Renato Otten, CHOF.
But S-M's No. 6 runner, Charlie Farber, may be the key.
"Charlie Farber is the sleeper," said Mattila. "He hasn't broken 17 minutes this year. He has an opportunity to run 16:20 to 16:30. He's shown that ability in practice."
Dan Sveom and Nils Scherer make up the rest of the S-M team.
Crosby-Ironton's Joe Radinovich has also shown a lot of ability. Radinovich, a senior, makes his third straight trip to state after placing fifth in 2002 and seventh in 2001. He finished the season ranked ninth in 1A.
"Joe would like to go out as a state champion," Crosby-Ironton coach Roger Twigg said. "But we've never had a boy in school history finish three times in the top 10. We'll focus on those kind of goals but we'll also take our shot at winning.
"We have a rough plan to what our race tactics are going to be. Joe's capable of a top five finish. The potential is there."
Twigg also pointed out that Radinovich has experience on his side.
"It helps to know what you're there for and focus on the task at hand," said Twigg. "The first time at state you're looking at everyone else and you can get distracted. You have your goal and you need to strictly focus on that. As a senior, down for the third time, Joe will put those extraneous things out of his mind."
Also down for a repeat performance is Wadena-Deer Creek's Rocky Jantzen. The senior placed 25th at last year's state meet and should improve on that finish. Pierz junior Randy Rauch will make his first state meet appearance.
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