The Staples-Motley Cardinals boys' team will attempt to do something no school in state history has done -- win a fifth straight state championship -- at the Class A state cross country meet at St. Olaf College in Northfield on Saturday,
S-M senior Jeff Brever will be trying to earn his third individual title. Another area runner looking at individual honors is Adam Asfeld of Wadena-Deer Creek.
In the girls' meet, Kourtney Anderson of Wadena-Deer Creek and Stacy Britz of Pierz are hoping to carry away honors.
Members of the Staples-Motley team include Jeff Brever, Ryan Klingaman, Jacob Huebsch, Chad Brever, David Reichel, Mike Schafer and Dan Huebsch.
This has been a season marked with injury for the four-time defending champion Cardinals. Overcoming those injuries will be key to accomplishing their goal of a fifth straight win.
"We lost Luke Grandlund and Chris Anderson (two of the Cardinals' top runners)," said S-M coach Gene Mattila. "Jeff Brever has been running with a thigh injury all year and then, at the sectionals, his shoe broke, the spike rolled over and went up into his foot. He ran the last two miles with a spike completely imbedded in the bottom of his foot. So he has a gash in his foot and a deep thigh bruise.
"Jacob Huebsch has something wrong with his hip; it sometimes goes numb on him, which is kind of critical. Chad Brever has had a knee problem since early summer but he just keeps running through it. And, David Reichel missed the first five weeks of the season with shin problems. In fact, Ryan Klingaman is our only healthy runner. So, we're banged up, but I still believe we'll win the state meet."
Jeff Brever aggress with Mattila's prediction.
"There's a lot of individual competition out there this year," said Brever. "But our goal is to take the state title for the team. As long as our team wins, I'll be happy."
Mattila is implementing a strategy for the race that he thinks will give his injured Cardinals a realistic shot at winning.
"We're going to try to attack the course right away," said Mattila. "We'll be aggressive. After 200 meters, we want all seven of our guys to be in the top 30. For us to win, we need to separate ourselves from everybody else. The course at St. Olaf starts off downhill and other teams seem to have the philosophy that you take off and run your race.
"I don't believe that. We're going to run the race that will win the state meet for us. I think the race will be won in the first 300 to 400 meters."
Brever said he hopes to run up front from the beginning and hang with other runners.
"Going up the hills is all guts," Brever said. "You run the hills fast if you have guts; if you don't, you'll slow down. I plan to go up fast."
Ray Zimney, coach of the Pierz Pioneers, is looking for his lone runner in the race, Stacy Britz, to do well.
"Last year Stacy finished 15th," said Zimney. "And, she was ranked in the top five. This year, she hasn't had as strong a year but I think she's running as well right now as she did a year ago. We're hoping she has her best race to date."
The top 25 runners earn all-state honors. That's something Britz will be trying to accomplish for a second year in a row.
"Stacy's goal is to earn that all-state honors again," said Zimney. "That's a reasonable goal but it will be tough for her. Stacy finished fifth in the sectionals last week and I thought that was her best race of the year. Stacy is a real hard worker. She's mentally tough and loves to run."
Britz is a six-year letterwinner who will graduate this year.
"Next year we'll be a real young team," said Zimney. "It will be the 'AB' era, that's 'After Britz.' Stacy has been a real leader here the last two years so we'll miss her."
Wadena-Deer Creek coach Terry Olson had two runners qualify for state. Asfeld won the section meet and Anderson finished seventh in the girls' section race.
"There are a lot of good runners this year," said Olson. "If Adam runs really well, I expect him to finish anywhere in the top five. It just depends on how the race goes. In a big meet like this, you always expect your kids to run their best. That's what I'm looking for from Adam.
"The past two years, Kourtney has been all-state. I certainly hope she'll be able to do that this year. My hope is that she'll be able to finish in the top 15 or so. She has to run really well to accomplish that but I believe she can do it."
The layout of the Northfield course, which starts on a downhill slope and finishes with two challenging hills, will impact how the W-DC team approaches the race.
"I think the course dictates your strategy," said Olson. "At the beginning, this course is easy but it's hard at the end. It you push too hard at the beginning you could end up dying at the end."
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.