GFW boys finish 8th at state meet

NORTHFIELD – The Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop boy’s cross-country team knew that if it ran well together, a Top-10 finish was possible at the Class A State Cross-Country meet on Saturday at St. Olaf College.

The Thunderbirds, like they have all season, finished relatively close to each other on the tough, hilly course and they finished eighth overall with 205 points.

Mora won the team meet with a team score of 93. Perham was second with 99 points, followed by La Crescent (third, 123 points), Windom Area (fourth, 166), West Central Area (fifth, 186), Lac Qui Parle Valley/Dawson-Boyd (sixth, 190), Minnehaha Academy (seventh, 201), GFW, Lake City (ninth place, 209), Trinity School at River Ridge (10th, 227), Pequot Lakes (11th, 236), Mankato Loyola/Cleveland (12th, 237), Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin (13th, 257), Ely (14th, 264), St. Cloud Cathedral (15th, 360) and New London-Spicer (16th, 360).

Although GFW was making it’s debut as a team at the meet, coach Mark Leitheiser was more than happy with his team’s debut.

“Going into it, this was our first year [in the state meet], so it was difficult to guage where we stood against the best teams in the state,” Leitheiser said. “The 16 schools, all of them darn good, we were ranked 12th and I thought that was realistic. I think we thought if we ran well and had a solid day, we could maybe crack the Top 10, which we’d be very pleased with and in fact that’s what we did.

“All in all, I thought we ran pretty well,” Leitheiser said. “Our top guys maybe weren’t quite as high as we thought maybe we would get, but the thing that we were very pleased with was that all of the guys ran in a tight pack and that’s the key to being successful – all Top 5 guys had a solid race for us and nobody lagged back and that helped us get into that top half of the teams there.”

Senior Sam Stresemann closed out his career by finishing 29th overall in 17:17. Teammates Javier Victorino finished in 31st in 17:20 and Ryan Albrecht finished right behind Victorino in 32nd place (17:25).

Will Pioske finished 55th overall in 17:51 and Jordan Halstead finished 58th in 17:52. GFW’s final two runners were Jacob Bohl (84th overall in 18:16) and Quinn Bleick (100th overall in 18:44).

Declan Dahlberg of Mounds Park Academy took first overall in 15:56. La Crescent’s Matt Steiger was second overall in 15:57.1 and Lake City’s Carl Kozlowski was third overall in 15:57.3. La Crescent’s Zack Emery finished fourth (16:01) and Moose Lake/Willow River’s Ethan Olson was fifth in 16:02.

Leitheiser said that the warm conditions almost made it difficult.

“We were glad, we went first at 10 and I’m glad we did, it was a little on the warm side, but it was a beautiful day and I think during the afternoon would’ve been tough on the kids,” he said.?

Another difficult factor was the terrain of the course, which features a few hills, something the Thunderbirds are not used to running on.

“In Winthrop, we literally don’t have a hill to train on,” he said.?”Hills are not our strength as a rule. This one’s got a couple, one is a great big hill about three quarters of the way through and another shorter one, but that’s not our strength, so it’s a tough and very challenging course. We tend to do a little better on the flat courses.”

The Thunderbirds lose only one senior and that is Stresemann, who has been to the state meet three times in his career. They have five juniors coming back next year as seniors and another junior-to-be on the varsity roster.

“We’ll have five seniors, I really believe running a state meet changes the thinking just a little bit and I think that’s true with our guys,” Leitheiser said.?”They really believe now, they’ve had good confidence all year but we’ve always kind of wondered could we get to the big one and how we could do. They got there and they scored well. They really believe now that they belong with the best teams and that we can compete with anyone in the state.”