Many boys' cross country running teams head into the Class 1A state meet Saturday at St. Olaf College in Northfield with hopes of capturing a state championship.
Until the race starts.
That's when the Staples-Motley Cardinals boys' team of Chad Brever, Dan Huebsch, Isaac Landecker, Dan Freeman, David Reichel and Charlie Farber will take over and trample the competition, like they did last year, when they won their fifth state championship in the last six years.
If it wasn't for an eighth-place finish in 1995, and a third-place finish in 2000, S-M coach Gene Mattila would have a perfect career record, by his standards.
"The boys are going to repeat," Mattila said of winning their second straight title. "We have the strongest team in the state in Class A and we're probably a top five team, overall, in any class. If the boys run intelligently and if we show up healthy, we should win it."
It's that kind of confidence that has separated the Cardinals from the rest of the field for years. Some teams may think of S-M's swagger as cockiness and dislike it, which is just fine with Mattila.
Crosby-Ironton's Joe Radinovich is an area runner who has his sights set firmly on one thing: Winning the individual championship.
Radinovich, who finished the season ranked fourth in Class 1A, has proven himself as one of the top runners in the state and, as his coach Roger Twigg points out, should have a shot at bringing home a victory.
"Joe has run very well in the last few weeks," Twigg said. "The way he's running right now he has as good a chance as anyone ranked in the top five. He's been running the most consistent times."
Twigg said as long as Radinovich runs smart, and runs his style of race, he'll be where he needs to be when the dust settles.
"We have to turn it into our kind of race," Twigg said. "Joe is a racer. We have to control the race and control what happens."
Ricky Aulie, who competed at last year's state meet, will join Radinovich at Northfield this year. Twigg believes Aulie might surprise some people.
"Ricky has really stepped it up to another level," Twigg said. "Again, if he can run his race, he could have a chance to finish in the top 25."
The Cardinals' Brever, who placed 10th at last year's state race and is ranked eighth this year, could also be in the mix for a state championship.
"I think there are eight runners that can run under 16 1/2 minutes," Mattila said. "Chad is one of them. He missed about half of our workouts this year due to injury, and for him to be in the top eight, would be impressive."
What's scary about the Cardinals is that Reichel is their only senior, making them a threat for a number of years to come. And, with their depth, the Cardinals can afford an off day from a runner or two. But with the fiery Mattila at the helm, don't count on it.
"If you have four guys run under 17 minutes," Mattila said, "you're pretty much assured the state title. This really puts us in a good position that if someone has a bad race someone will be there to pick up the slack.
"The boys not only want to win state, they want to dominate it."
Pierz sophomore Zach Solinger, who placed 12th last year, also looks to crack the top 10 this year. Two other area runners joining him are Travis Bristow of Pine River-Backus and Rocky Jantzen of Wadena-Deer Creek.
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