Thomas Ruttger and Jimmy Dean hope to be the top tandem in the Class 2A state cross country meet Saturday at Northfield.
The Brainerd Warriors qualifiers are aiming for top 25 finishes, which will result in all-state honors. Ruttger is coming off a fourth-place finish in the Section 8-2A meet where Dean finished ninth.
"We want to be the fastest two-man team from one school," Ruttger said.
Ruttger virtually came out of the north woods to place ninth in last year's 2A state meet. He was unranked, with a select few considering him a threat to garner all-state honors.
That finish earned him attention from the Minnesota High School Cross Country Coaches Association, which ranked him fourth in 2A this preseason.
Thomas Ruttger (left) and Jimmy Dean will represent the Brainerd Warriors in the Class 2A state cross country meet Saturday. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls
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Again this season Ruttger enters the state meet unranked and hoping to better his 2007 finish. He's peaking at the right time, running the second-fastest time of his career (16:08.9) in the section meet last week. He is one of five runners returning who placed in the top 10 last year.
"My fastest time was at state last year (16:03.1)," Ruttger said. "State is a fast course. I'm hoping to be quite a few seconds under that.
"My biggest goal is to medal, that's top eight. I was one away from that last year. I'm not going to let that happen again."
Warriors coach Dave Herath said Brainerd hasn't had many medalists. He also noted that Ruttger is only the second Brainerd boy to qualify for four state meets (Justin Tyner is the other).
"Any time you're in the top 25 you're running really well," Herath said. "Thomas wants to go down there and beat last year's placing. It will be different this year not being there with his team."
For the first time since 2004 the Warrior boys' team didn't qualify for state. Brainerd graduated three runners from that team and had two others move to other schools.
Where: St. Olaf College, Northfield
Class 2A girls: 1 p.m.
Class 2A boys: 2 p.m.
"Thomas hasn't quite had the level of competition within our practices," Herath said. "He and Jimmy were quite a bit ahead of our other guys this year, but Thomas is still running as fast, or faster, than he did last year."
Dean will make his third state trip (he ran with the team the last two years).
"Jimmy's goal is to be all-state," Herath said. "The way he's been running that's attainable. He's been very consistent. If he cranks it up about half a notch he should be right there.
"He ran a very solid race in the section against some quality competition. He was probably in 20th place at the mile, if not farther back. He went out under control, and built from there."
Manon Gammon-Deering of Little Falls qualified for the 2A girls' meet. She finished seventh in the section at 15:18.3.
MIKE BIALKA may be reached at email@example.com or at 855-5861.
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