After winning Lake Conference and Section 6AA titles earlier this month, the Eden Prairie High boys cross country team is one of the favorites for the State Class AA Meet, Saturday, Nov. 2, at St. Olaf College in Northfield.
“This is our first trip to state since 2013,” EP coach Jeff Lindlief said after the Eagles ran away with the Section 6AA title Oct. 23 at Gale Woods Farm.
Eden Prairie went virtually unchallenged in the section meet, finishing with 39 points to 86 for second-place Edina. Only two teams advance to state from each of Minnesota’s eight sections, and the battle for second place in 6AA was intense. Hopkins with 97, Wayzata with 99 and Minnetonka with 103 were all within striking distance of Edina.
The weather for the section meet at Gale Woods approached perfection - 45 degrees with a light breeze and veiled sunshine under light clouds.
“To me, the course seemed better today than it did for the Lake Conference Meet,” Lindlief said. “But there were a few wet spots. Everyone has to deal with the same conditions.”
A strong 1-2 punch from seniors Zach Spears and Jake Derouin keyed Eden Prairie’s section championship. Spears finished the 5K race in 16 minutes to take second place. Derouin crossed the finish line in 16:01 for third place. The winner was Shuayb Hussein from Wayzata in 15:53.
The Eagles’ next three finishers were integral in securing the championship. Isaac Hartman finished ninth in 16:32, Jake Gschwendtner was 12th in 16:35 and Alex Gutierrez took 13th place in 16:42.
Eden Prairie’s team score would have been even better if Mohamed Mohamud had not fallen, about 25 meters before the finish line. He was able to get to his feet and finish 19th in 16:51.
Nile Timmerman, EP’s other section entry, ran 16:53 for 20th place. No other team in the section had all seven of its runners finish in under 17 minutes.
“This is a great day for our kids and for our alumni,” Lindlief said. “Our fifth, sixth and seventh runners all had a good day.”
Looking ahead to state, what will it take for Eden Prairie to win?
“Usually, you need two or three runners in the top 15,” Lindlief said.
Is that something Eden Prairie could do?
“Going into the state meet, I think Eden Prairie and Mounds View are a level above everyone else,” said Edina head coach Jamie Kirkpatrick, whose team is the defending state Class AA champion. “Eden Prairie’s only loss this season is to Stillwater, a team that didn’t qualify for state.”
Asked about his team’s chances of repeating last year’s title, Kirkpatrick said, “If we can get healthy, we’ll be at the next level [below Eden Prairie and Mounds View] with St. Paul Highland Park and White Bear Lake.”
Eden Prairie 39, Edina 86, Hopkins 97, Wayzata 99, Minnetonka 103, Minneapolis Southwest 143, Armstrong 174, Minneapolis Washburn 213, Benilde-St. Margaret’s 287, St. Louis Park 296, Cooper 344, DeLaSalle 351, Minneapolis South 381, Minneapolis Roosevelt 401, Minneapolis Patrick Henry 451.
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