Cross country boys team looks toward Regional meet

Hopkins swept the competition at State, now positioned seventh in the nation

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  • The Boy’s Cross Country team poses with their first place plaque at the awards ceremony.

  • Sam Branson, senior, races along at the St. Olaf state meet.

  • Sam Branson, senior, leads the second pack at the start of the state meet.

  • Owen Hoeft, senior, paces himself behind Seth Eliason, junior.

  • Hunter Staack, senior, races around the corner at the St. Olaf state meet.

  • Jack Henschel, senior, leads the second pack of runners at the St. Olaf state meet.

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Before the most important race in his high school career, number two ranked runner in the state, Owen Hoeft, senior, wasn’t feeling like himself.

“After our warm up run, I felt more tired than usual, but thought I would snap out of it before the race. When I lined up on the starting line to go through some acceleration exercises, I ended up puking six or seven times in front of everyone,” said Hoeft.

The past few weeks have been tough for Hopkins runners. Hunter Staack, senior, had been dealing with sinusitis for the past week, and Jack Henschel, senior, had been fighting with bronchitis for the past couple of weeks. Both are a part of Hopkins’ “Fab Five,” according to coach, Mike Harris.

“We were confident in all the training and preparation we’ve put into our season, and we weren’t going to let a sickness bother us and keep us from our main goal,” Hoeft said.

After showcasing their top notch talent repeatedly this year, Hopkins showed off a different aspect to their team: their grit.

With their top runner slowed down by illness, Seth Eliason, junior, stepped up for the Hopkins Royals.

Last week at the Gale Woods, Eliason posted a 15:58 time and finished fourth in sections. At St. Olaf this weekend, Eliason ran a personal best 15:41 and finished sixth in the state. Henschel and Sam Branson, senior, also ran personal bests with times of 15:54 and 16:07, respectively.

Senior Hunter Staack also ran well, and the Hopkins Royals finished with their top five runners qualifying for all-state.

The Fab Five’s personal records have a spot in the top 30 times in school history, including number two and number seven.

“The night before the big race, I was so nervous that I just felt like I wanted to get it over with, but as the race came closer and closer I started to feel more confident in myself and in the team. We’ve put in enough work to feel as one of the top teams in the nation, and we’re looking forward to proving ourselves,” Eliason said.

Before the race, Minneapolis Washburn was ranked ninth in the nation. Hopkins nearly cut Washburn’s point total in half, scoring 34 points and setting themselves apart in the record books with the lowest point total at the Minnesota state race in the past twenty years.

Hopkins is now ranked number seven in the nation.

The Royals proved they were in a league of their own over the weekend at St. Olaf and are now looking to the future.

“We haven’t lost a race all season and look forward to carrying that momentum into the regional race. The team is confident that, if we maintain our level of competitiveness, we will continue our journey to nationals,” Hoeft said.

The regional meet will consist of teams from all over the Midwest with the top two teams going to Portland, Oregon to compete in the National race.

The top five individual runners who aren’t on a national qualifying team will also participate in the national meet. Last year, MN Gatorade Runner of the Year and class of 2015 Hopkins graduate, Joe Klecker, qualified for Nationals individually. Klecker finished third at regionals, qualified for the National meet, and finished the National race with a time of 16:05.

The Hopkins community has rallied behind the boys’ cross country team and is in full support of their journey to Nationals.

“I think I can speak for the student body at Hopkins as a whole when I say that we’re very proud of the cross country team and feel confident that they’ll positively represent Hopkins on and off the course, whether it’s at the regional meet or the National meet,” said Noah Baker, senior.

The Nike Cross Heartland Regional meet will take place on Nov. 13 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.