Viking runners move up in section

NB boys take 15th place, Rinke to race at state

Ninth-grader Rhianna Rinke trails Forest Lake’s Emma Benner during the section race. Rinke said her game plan was to latch on the lead runner from the start, guaranteeing her the second-place finish.

Ninth-grader Rhianna Rinke trails Forest Lake’s Emma Benner during the section race. Rinke said her game plan was to latch on the lead runner from the start, guaranteeing her the second-place finish. Photos by Kat Ladwig

Moving up two spots in Section 7AA was the North Branch girls cross country team, which took fifth place out of 16 teams in Cloquet Oct. 24, an improvement from last season’s seventh-place finish.

The Vikings totaled 163 points and sped past Andover and Big Lake, which took fourth and sixth place in 2012. Winning the Section 7AA title to advance to the state meet at St. Olaf College in Northfield was Forest Lake with 50 points, followed by Elk River (81 points). Grand Rapids and Duluth East followed with 114 and 139 points, respectively.

The highlight of the day for North Branch was the second-place finish of ninth-grader Rhianna Rinke, who finished a place higher and 25 seconds faster than her 2012 performance with a time of 14:41. The speedster was one of six athletes to finish under 15 minutes in the 4K race, and will second trip to the state meet.

Sophomore Emma Benner, of Forest Lake, was the section champion with a time of 14:38, and was part of Rinke’s game plan for a strong race.

Senior Kyle Granger keeps his eyes shut to ward off the snow that started to fall halfway through the race. Granger led the Viking boys in 32nd place of 109 runners.

Senior Kyle Granger keeps his eyes shut to ward off the snow that started to fall halfway through the race. Granger led the Viking boys in 32nd place of 109 runners.

“My game plan was to tail on someone, same stride, same breathing, just kind of feed off of them a little,” Rinke said. “It kind of takes the toughness away from you since there’s really no thinking—you just kind of latch on. That was my game plan and I think it worked pretty well.”

Senior Cassidy White followed in 31st place in a field of 109 racers with a time of 16:12, while ninth-grader Madison Belland took 38th in 16:26.

Senior Casey Hovland (16:27) and sophomore Laura Dolezalek (16:47) rounded out the scoring for the Vikings in 40th and 52nd place, respectively.

North Branch’s average time on the day was 16:07, 20 seconds faster than last fall’s section race.

Despite the improvement, the Cloquet race would be the last of the season for all but Rinke.

Sophomore Laura Dolezalek paces herself coming off a hill on the Cloquet course last Thursday.

Sophomore Laura Dolezalek paces herself coming off a hill on the Cloquet course last Thursday.

“I know some of them had tough races, but they still managed to wipe their tears away and give me hugs and smile afterward,” Rinke said. “Not only that, but they know they’re done with the season but will still show up the next week to push me hard through practice. I’m really proud of them and really happy to have them—some of the best friends I could ever ask for.”

The cross country state race (Class AA) begins at 10 a.m. at St. Olaf College in Northfield.

The North Branch boys cross-country team closed its season by facing cold temperatures and snow during its Section 7AA meet in Cloquet Oct. 24.

In a 16-team field, the Vikings placed 15th with 362 points, dropping three spots from their 2012 appearance in Princeton. The host team took the title (61 points) and along with second-place finisher, Chisago Lakes (86 points), earned a bid to the state meet at St. Olaf College in Northfield.

Senior Kyle Granger made tracks from last fall, climbing the ranks from 72nd place last fall with a time of 18:32 to 32nd last week by dropping 47 seconds. Granger had a breakout season this year by becoming a routine top placer for North Branch.

Sophomore Scott Ramberg also improved from his 2012 finish, where he finished in 19:09 for 90th place, to 69th place with a time of 18:37. Senior Noah Hubbard crossed the finish line soon after in 18:56, good for 78th place in a field of 109 racers, while junior Cole Willis took 89th place in 19:16.

Senior Hector Rosales rounded out the scoring for North Branch with a time of 19:29 (94th place).

Head coach Tom Kingsland said he is proud of the progress the Viking runneres made this season.

“We believe that our athletes have all had a great season because they peaked at the perfect time,” Kingsland said. “Our athletes learned how to work hard, be dedicated to a goal, and perform well under pressure.  We are very proud of our athletes and we have all had fun this season.”

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