The atmosphere at Thursday's section meet at NL-S was one of fierce rivalry and competition, with the air smelling of sweat and adrenaline. The boys' cross country team thrived off the setting, came back from last season's unsettling ending with more determination than ever and finished second in the section, merely four points from dethroning four-time state champions Staples Motley.
"We're pumped," said Coach Carstens.
Dan Pearson leads Jesse Rien into the final stretch at the section meet last week. Section 6A boasts the state's toughest competition, sporting both Staples-Motley and Paynesville, the top two ranked teams in the state, as well as the top seven of twelve individuals. Paynesville's lead runner Clayton Lang held his ground among this elite crowd, finishing fifth in 16:47, within a stone's throw from Greg Liebl of Montevideo and two-time defending state champion Jeff Brever of Staples-Motley. His performance sent him to state both with his team and as an individual.
"This has got to be the most interesting race I've ever run," said battle-bloodied Adam Utsch, who was spiked in the leg rounding the first corner. He went on to lose his shoe around the next bend, and ran the remainder of the 5000-meter race with only one shoe. He didn't let all the crazy hullabaloo detract from his race, finishing ninth in 17:14, seconds from Staples' Ryan Klingaman.
Clayton Lang, pictured right, is the number one Paynesville boys' cross country runner Jesse Rien and Dan Pearson shot into the chute on the heels of Jacob Huebsch and Chad Brever of Staples-Motley. Rien and Pearson fought for position with the Staples' runners throughout the race, but were edged in the final meters, finishing three seconds apart in 12th and 13th, respectively.
Eric Korman finished in the team's vital fifth position. Passing several runners in the sprint to the end, he finished 16th with a time of 17:46, ahead of Staples' fifth runner.
Ryan Flanders came in 23rd ahead of Montevideo's third runner, and Travis Flanders finished 28th in a dash to the finish. With a difference of only four points between the top two teams in the state, it is imperative that all seven runners finish ahead of Staples' fifth runner if the team is to contend for a state championship.
"It's been an exciting season," said Coach Carstens. "We've worked hard and it's nice to have success."
Coach Carstens was honored with the Coach of The Year award for the second season in a row. His fun, competitive coaching has created a tradition of cross country for Paynesville that is stronger than any other team in the state. He wishes to thank all the runners and assistant coaches Rick Houske and Todd Spanier for a great season.
The boys and girls of the Paynesville cross country team relax after their victories.
Paynesville and Staples will duke it out this Saturday at the Minnesota State Cross Country meet at St. Olaf College in Northfield. The top 16 teams in the state of Minnesota and the top individuals will be competing for the state championship. The boys run at 11 a.m. Come on down for the experience of a lifetime and support your team!
1. Staples-Motley -46
2. Paynesville -50
3. Wadena-Deer Creek -91
4. Montevideo -95
5. New London-Spicer -115
6. Long Prairie-Grey Eagle -129
7. Morris Area -154
Sauk Centre -Inc.
5. Clayton Lang -16:47
9. Adam Utsch -17:14
12. Jesse Rien -17:26
13. Dan Pearson -17:29
16. Eric Korman -17:46
23. Ryan Flanders -18:09
28. Travis Flanders -18:25
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