It's always more fun to run with a friend.
Senior teammates Jimmy Dean and Chris Knutson will represent the Brainerd Warriors in the Class 2A state meet Saturday at St. Olaf College.
Brainerd's Chris Knutson (173) led Jake Autio of St. Michael-Albertville in the Section 8-2A meet Oct. 29 at Little Falls. Autio went on to finish second, Knutson seventh. Brainerd Dispatch/Kelly Humphrey » Purchase reprints of this photo.
"There's something about having teammates with you," Warriors coach Dave Herath said. "You have a little more of a challenge flying solo, yet I talked about that Tim Kidder, my first year as head coach, had never been to state before. He qualified by himself and was unranked and ended up 14th, so it can be done.
"It's all about your mindset. You're going in there running for your school but you're also running for yourself. You've trained too hard to go down there and just show up."
Dean hopes for his best finish in his fourth, and final, trip to state and hopes to earn all-state honors (place in the top 25). Dean has finished 98th, 77th and 136th in previous trips.
What: State meet
Where: St. Olaf College, Northfield
Class 2A boys 10 a.m.
Class 2A girls 11 a.m.
Class 1A boys 1 p.m.
Class 1A girls 2 p.m.
"Jimmy would like to get top 25, that's definitely within doable range for him," Herath said. "The two ahead of him (in our section) were ranked at various points coming out of our section, but he's right there with them. Anything above that would be awesome.
"There were a lot of graduates (from the state meet) last year, so it's kind of wide open."
Knutson hopes to crack the top 50 in his first appearance.
"Chris has set a realistic goal of top 50, which would be awesome," Herath said. "There's a wedge group from 16:30 to 17:00. If he's at the front end of it he's maybe looking at possible all-state. If he's at the tail end of it he could be 80th. They're all within a 30-second range.
"There are 150 runners there and no one is slow. They didn't get there because they're nice kids, they got there because they're fast. If he can do (top 50) in his first time there it would be great. He would love to be higher than that."
Herath said the meet is a reward for two fine young men.
"As seniors, coming in day in and day out, and pushing themselves to the state meet, it's quite an accomplishment," he said. "We've been fortunate this whole decade to have quite a few individuals and teams make it.
"When you talk about the history of Brainerd cross country, it's a fairly rare occurrence. It doesn't happen by chance, it happens by hard work and talent. Jimmy and Chris have both. I'm proud of these boys and hopefully they'll do a great job down there."
The Cardinal boys' team will make its 15th consecutive state trip, and 34th overall.
Seniors Jordan Bendson, Gunner Johnson, Josh Freese, Tyler Jenniges and Isaac Fuhrman lead the Cardinals. Fuhrman, Freese and Bendson have been varsity runners for six years.
Bendson finished seventh at state in 2008 to earn all-state honors along with Johnson (20th place). Freese placed 108th, Fuhrman 133rd and Jenniges 149th.
Ziegler and Blake Miller are the other members of the team. Ziegler was 145th last season.
In the girls' meet, the Cardinals' Emma Pogreba will make her fifth state appearance and Kaytlin Roth will make her fourth. Pogreba was 43rd last season, Roth 60th.
"Kaytlin had her finest year in cross country and has been our No. 1 runner," Cardinals coach Bruce Fuhrman said. "She's a five-year letterwinner. We expect to see her in competition for the all-state team. Emma has been our most consistent runner for the past four years."
Little Falls Flyers
Manon Gammon-Deering placed 47th in last year's 2A girls' meet.
She has been the Flyers' top runner this year, winning two races and finishing sixth in the Central Lakes Conference and sixth in Section 8-2A. She placed in the top six of all her races except the Lucky Lindy in Little Falls, where she lost a shoe and placed 13th.
MIKE BIALKA may be reached at email@example.com or at 855-5861.
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