Five local boys earned medals by placing within the top-15 in a field of 56 in the varsity race at the Pine City Invitational Sept. 7.
A trio of North Branch juniors ran together for most of the 5,000-meter race, and all crossed the finished within two seconds of each other. Joseph Nihart led a Viking effort for the second straight meet, finishing in a personal-best time of 18:42 to place ninth. Aiden Bear and Matthew Stuber were close behind, both finishing in 18:44 and taking tenth and eleventh respectively.
Something similar happened at the front of the Rush City effort. Sophomores Ashton Langworthy (14th, 18:53) and Matt Papke (15th, 18:56) worked together throughout the race to create a back-to-back finish.
Another Rush City sophomore, Brodrick Larson, was the next local finisher (20th, 19:07).
Eleven teams competed in the meet, with eight having enough finishers to register a team score. North Branch placed third with 79 points, only 19 points behind winners Pine City. Beyond the leading three, the remainder of the Viking scoring septet was senior Micah Pick (28th, 19:38), eighth-grader Logan Murphy (35th, 19:53), freshman Lucas Edson (42nd, 20:22) and sophomore Reese Crowell (44th, 20:38).
The Rush City boys placed sixth (118), with a lineup rounded out by sophomore Sandon Stepp (36th, 19:54), freshman Luke Widenstrom (50th, 21:19) and junior Derek Murphy (53rd, 21:57).
Nine teams entered the girls varsity race, with eight registering a team score. Mora placed six runners in the first 11 to easily claim the team title (29).
North Branch finished seventh (177). Eighth-grader Cora Hudella led the Vikings (27th of 58, 23:55), followed by junior Gail Nelson (32nd, 24:16), freshman Julia Van Dyke (39th, 24:49), sophomore Laura Hink (41st, 25:13), sophomore Melina DeMars (48th, 26:02), eighth-grader Soleil DeLorge (49th, 26:05) and junior Emerson Peaslee (52nd, 26:51).
The Rush City girls placed eighth (233). The varsity lineup consisted of senior Sydney Fulcher (42nd, 25:35), sophomore Selena Schmidt (46th, 25:52), sophomore Isabelle Medina (51st, 26:40), senior Alexis Schmidt (56th, 28:11) and sophomore Abi Novick (57th, 28:28).
The Vikings raced again Sept. 9 at the Monticello Invitational. The North Branch boys placed 12th of 14 teams with 318 points. Sartell-St. Stephen won with 28.
Running the same varsity lineup as at Pine City, the Vikings’ finishing order was Stuber (51st of 91, 19:01), Nihart (53rd, 19:09), Murphy (66th, 19:53), Bear (70th, 20:02), Edson (78th, 20:20), Pick (83rd, 20:33) and Crowell (90th, 21:11).
The Viking girls placed ninth of 10 with 242 points; St. Michael-Albertville won the title with 29.
The Viking girls finished as follows: Hudella (49th, 23:21), Nelson (57th, 24:21), Van Dyke (58th, 24:28), Hink (63rd, 24:50), DeMars (64th, 24:52), DeLorge (71st, 26:40) and Peaslee (72nd, 27:52).
The Vikings and Tigers both competed at Mora Tuesday after press time. Runners from both squads will join thousands of others at the Milaca Mega Meet, considered the world’s largest cross-country meet, Saturday, Sept. 23.