The Waconia cross country team has seen continued success despite the changes to the season, piling up the wins in smaller meets. Each race is limited to three teams, and usually ends up with Waconia in first for both the boys and girls.
“With the pod system, we’ve got to know each other a lot,” said Mark Rud. ‘We’ve got a lot of good chemistry going.”
Because there are rules limiting the size of groups that can gather, the Wildcats are split off into smaller pods to practice. The Wildcats are making the most of the change and using it to their advantage.
“We know more of how we’re running together and how we’re doing, so we can put that into our races,” said Adorisa Kaeding.
While the smaller groups help them in practice, it may hurt their times a bit, with fewer runners on the course.
“I’ve noticed that since there are a lot less runners on the course, it’s harder to push myself at the end,” said Rud. “There are less people to chase after.”
Kaeding, who competed at the state meet last season, said her results this year would likely look different during a normal season. She has piled up numerous first-place finishes in 2020, but thinks she would have less when competing against more runners. But with more competitors, her times would likely be faster.
“The races are a whole lot different,” said Kaeding. “[I probably wouldn’t finish first as much] because there are so many fast girls out there, but I may do better because there is more competition out there.”
While Kaeding was the leader of the girls squad last year, Rud has made the jump this year to lead the boys. He consistently places at the top of the pack, but is unsure how he would fair in a normal year.
“It’s hard for me to say because I’ve put in a lot of work this offseason and I feel like I’ve had a big jump here from last year. With smaller meets its hard to say how I’d be doing.”
Another change for this season is the home venue for the Wildcats. For years, Waconia would run home meets at Crown College. The course is a hilly one that many runners considered to be among the toughest out there. Starting in 2020, the Wildcats host home meets at Bayview.
“Crown is a tough course, and being at Bayview, it has a fun feeling to it,” said Rud.
Not only is the course easier, it resembles more of a home meet.
“It feels more like home because we don’t go to Crown College,” said Kaeding.
“There’s a sense of familiarity,” said Rud.
The other wrench that has been thrown into the 2020 season is the possibility of postseason meets not taking place, so it is hard for the runners to set goals.
“It’s so unpredictable because we don’t know whether well be running at sections or not, so it’s just kind of make the best out of each race,” said Kaeding.
So the Wildcats are just making the best out of the time that they have competing this season.
“We’re taking it one race at a time,” said Rud. “We don’t know if there is state at the moment, so I’m just taking it one week at a time.”
The Wildcats traveled to Lake Marion County Park last week, where they took on both Hutchinson and Delano. The girls took first place, while the boys were second behind Delano.
The Waconia girls crowded the lead pack, with all six runners placing in the top nine. Kaeding led the way in third place with a time of 19 minutes, 23.24 seconds, starting a run of five Waconia runners crossing the line consecutively. Madeline Lage was fourth (19:36.41), Amelia Harold was fifth (19:40.90), Aubrey Mair was sixth (20:38.96) and Kate Ulrich was seventh (21:13.70). One Delano runner broke the string of Wildcats finishing, before Emily Gustafson took ninth (21:55.87) to end the race for Waconia with more than half of the competitors still on the course.
Rud led the boys with a second place finish of 17:22.79, then three Wildcats crossed the line in a pack. Ryne Anderson finished ninth (18:27.18), Wyatt Boberg was 10th (18:29.66) and Mason Behrens was 11th (18:30.58). Not far behind was Glaser Ryan in 14th (18:46.17).