In Chris Knutson's case being No. 2 can be a good thing.
The Brainerd High School senior was the Warriors' No. 2 runner this season behind Jimmy Dean. The two pushed each other and qualified for Saturday's Class 2A state meet Saturday at St. Olaf College in Northfield.
"It's pretty rare that a kid can push themselves, day in and day out," Warriors coach Dave Herath said. "It always helps to have a partner in crime so to speak or a whole team with about the same ability level. We found that out a couple years ago when we finished third and fourth in the state, the more the merrier.
"Chris pushed Jimmy, Jimmy pushed Chris. As seniors they've been on the team since ninth grade. They've matured. They want to go out with bang. Hopefully, they will this weekend. They certainly did that at the section meet."
Dean placed third in the Section 8-2A race with a time of 16:53.1 and Knutson placed seventh at 17:05.7 in rainy, cold conditions at the Little Falls Country Club.
"I started out slow because my coaches wanted me to so we went out on a pace," Knutson said. "After about a mile I picked it up and ran my own race. By the end I was feeling good.
"The ground was really soft, like you were sinking. Otherwise, I kind of like conditions like that."
Herath said Knutson was running far from slow.
Sport: Cross country
Other sports: Track and field
Career highlight: Qualifying for state cross country meet
Grade-point average: 3.0
Favorite class: Gym
Favorite food: Steak
Favorite TV show: Scrubs
Future plans: Attend college, run cross country and track
Favorite athlete: Steve Prefontaine
Parents: Tom and Kelly Knutson
"Some other kids did not run a real disciplined race," Herath said. "Little Falls was muddy but a fairly flat course. You can feel really good the first mile, then maybe you get caught going faster than you should.
"At the mile mark he was looking good while guys were huffing and puffing ahead of him. He was very much in control, very workmanlike. He never panicked.
"Every 400 meters or so I saw him passing people. He easily got into the top 10 with about three or four miles to go, and moved up from there. He got nipped for top six. It's a very strong section. To be seventh is very good."
Knutson, who has never raced on the St. Olaf course, said that might be a disadvantage but he has high hopes.
"I'm hoping to be in the top 50 and feeling good," he said. "Hopefully, I will get my best time of the year. I'll give it everything I've got."
Herath said the state meet is a fitting reward for Knutson.
"He's been our No. 2 runner every meet out," Herath said. "As a senior he's really put a lot of things together. Last year he came in in very good shape. He had some foot and shin issues that prevented him at the end of the season from achieving the goals he wanted to get to. This year has been much better as far as that goes.
"He has really blossomed. It's a great thing for a kid who has worked as hard as he has and to get to end his high school career at state. That doesn't happen to a lot of kids. He's definitely deserving of that."
Other notable efforts:
• Jimmy Dean, cross country, qualified for state with a third-place finish in the section meet.
• Kyle Crocker, football, returned four punts for 131 yards and two touchdowns against Cambridge-Isanti.
• Sarah Dens, Laura Goll and Katy Etterman, swimming and diving, earned All-CLC honors.
• Sydnie Mauch, volleyball, had 17 kills, four digs and six blocks against Tech.
MIKE BIALKA may be reached at email@example.com or at 855-5861.
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