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Cross Country: Panthers add depth to talent and experience


September 4, 2020

Contributed photo

The Panthers top girls runner, Jillian Sajdak, warms up near the varsity boys team and coach Jeremy Polson (right). The girls team was Polar League Conference Champion for the second time in a row last year and they have all their runners back this year. Contributed photo

Now in his 17th year as the head cross country coach at South Ridge and previously AlBrook, Jeremy Polson is no stranger to the ups and downs of high school athletics.

"Last year was a rebuilding year for the boys, and it shows, as we are much better this year," said Polson. "It is a young group, but we return all our runners from last year and have added some depth. Our girls team repeated as Polar League Conference Champions and we have everyone back!"

Amazingly, the Panthers have numbers that are rivaling some of the big schools in the area this season.

"Our numbers are excellent with around 80 kids because of sports canceled like football and volleyball," said Polson.

For leaders for the boys team, Polson points to Jimmy Zupancich and Alex Burkhardt. The girls team looks for Jillian Sajdak and Addison Burkhardt to lead.

"Practice has been excellent, and we had our first meet. Placed first in junior high, JV, and varsity girls, while the boys were second in varsity and junior high, and the junior varsity placed first," Polson said.

One of the biggest surprises was Panther football quarterback Oskar Koivisto, who is already moving up to No. 3 as a varsity runner and helping solidify the boys team. On the girls side, Evelyn Brodeen - a newcomer from Superior, Wisconsin - has moved into the No. 3 role for the girls team on varsity.

"Our goals are to run our best at the last meet of the season against our conference rivals, since we have no post-season meets," Polson said. So far the Minnesota State High School League has not scheduled a state or section meet for cross country, and has limited the number of teams in local competitions to three at each meet because of the pandemic.

Polson is taking the long view on all the challenges of the 2020 season.

"Running is a lifelong sport, so our goal as a coaching staff is to continue making progress."


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