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  • The team warms up together before their five kilometer race.

  • Hunter Staack, senior, warms up in the traditional Hopkins blue.

  • Team supporters wave a Hopkins H as the racers come into view.

  • The lead pack of runners at Nationals race close together.

  • Jack Henschel, St. Olaf College, Cross Country/Track- First year on Varsity: Eighth grade, 2011. Favorite memory: Winning State 4X800 in track, and winning State as a cross country team.

  • Hunter Staack and Sam Branson, seniors, run close together at Nike Cross Nationals.

  • Sam Branson, senior, runs to a 115 place finish

  • Seth Eliason, junior, runs not solo but along with a pack of 27 runners who finished within eight seconds of each other.

  • Eli Hoeft, freshman, kicks into his stride against several older runners.

  • Bridger Pavelka, senior captain, pushes down the final stretch.

  • The boys team huddles together at the end of their warmup.

  • Owen Hoeft, senior, strides alongside numerous top runners.

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Experiencing Oregon

Dec 10, 2015

After settling in to the all-expenses-paid hotel that Thursday afternoon, the boys attended the opening ceremony. The team heard from a panel of Olympic cross country and track athletes, such as Mo Farah, Matthew Centrowitz Jr., and Galen Rupp.

On Friday, the boys visited the Tiger Woods Center, along with other competitors and Nike sponsored professionals. The boys were surprised when Farah, two-time Olympic gold medalist, approached the team and challenged them to a game of FIFA on the Xbox.

“Mo won, and it was kind of crazy because the whole room came over to watch,” said Hunter Staack, senior.

On Saturday, the boys lined up at the start of the course to compete in the biggest race of their lives and in the history of Hopkins distance running.

Due to constant rain in the days leading up to the race, the course became a trail of mud. On race day, temperatures dropped below 45 degrees and rain continued to fall.

“It was a great race to be a part of because of the talented competition and the difficulty of the course,” said Sam Branson, senior. “The wet and muddy conditions really slowed us down, but we battled and all still ran solid races.”

After the first mile, the boys were back in 13th place out of 22 teams. In the next two miles, all of the Hopkins runners moved up, passing runner after runner as the team advanced to hold seventh place.

The efforts of the Hopkins runners earned them a seventh place finish out of 22 teams. Hoeft was the first runner to cross the line for Hopkins, finishing in 56th place out of 195 competitors. He was followed by Henschel, who finished in 66th place, Seth Eliason, junior, in 82nd place, Staack in 103rd, Branson in 115th, Eli Hoeft, freshman, in 182nd, and Bridger Pavelka, senior, in 183rd.

The Royals weren’t the only competitors representing Minnesota at Nationals. Of the top 100 finishers, eight runners were from Minnesota. Additionally, fellow 6AA members Edina and Wayzata high schools finished 13 and 14, respectively.

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