Lumberjacks set improvement pace
October 6, 2023
While the fall football and soccer seasons are starting to reach the end of their regular seasons, boys and girls in cross country still have about a month of running ahead of them. That time will be used to make sure teams are continuing to train as they try to lop time off their runs in hopes of winning a section title.
"I'm happy with how hard our kids are working," said Cloquet boys and girls cross country coach Chandra Allen.
The Cloquet boys team has made continuous improvements and has been led by a trio of runners. Senior Calvin Snesrud, junior Ian Berube and freshman Evan Rothamel have consistently been the Lumberjacks' top runners this season.
"We have nine solid varsity runners," Allen said. "They've improved their times since last year and I would expect to see continued improvement."
Allen said Saturday's Lester Park Invitational in Duluth was atypical, with a number of athletes getting over illness and muddy conditions. Times overall were generally slower.
"The conditions [Saturday] continued to deteriorate throughout the meet; the more people ran on the course, the sloppier it got," Allen said. "The boys were the last to run and talked of their feet sinking into the mud and other places where it was slippery, especially if they didn't have spikes on. Still, it did not compare to a few years ago, 2019, when every meet we ran was a muddy, sloppy mess."
The Grand Rapids meet just a week ago demonstrated how Allen would like her runners to compete.
"We had seven runners running in a close pack," Allen said. "We are trying to teach them to work together in a pack, and that will help all of them. Every meet the fourth through ninth runners change places, so I like our depth. We may not have the great, top-type runner in the past, but as a group we have some depth."
Over on the girls team the 'Jacks have seen impressive runs from Alex Shepherd.
"Alex has been improving each meet by as much as a minute on her times," said Allen. "She went to State in the open 400 [meters] and was on the 4x800 relay team that went to State, and now she is carrying that success over to cross country."
Another nice surprise for the girls has been the performance of freshman runner Elsa Winbigler.
"Elsa has been sticking close to Alex in each race, and because of that she is really improving," said Allen, noting that Winbigler ran well at Lester Park too, taking 18th place overall for girls.
The girls team is young but they have eight or nine runners who all seem to switch finishes, and Allen says you never know who will be in the top seven.
"We've had some good performance, and some not so good, but some of that is because we've been dealing with some sick kids," Allen said. "Hopefully, that has all run its course and now we can focus on improving."
Allen, who is in her fifth year as head coach, was headed with her team to the Ely Invitational on Thursday.
Esko skips mudfest
After the majority of his varsity runners ran a 47-mile relay race from Two Harbors with the game football for Homecoming on Friday, head coach Jerimy Hallsten gave them the day off.
Instead, Esko seventh- and -eighth graders and freshman runners competed in the middle school races at the Lester Park Invitational.
Hallsten said the cross country team is doing very well and working hard this season.
"We're at the point in the season where we let off the gas and make sure the kids are fresh for conference meet next week and sections a couple weeks after that," Hallsten said. The Polar League conference meet starts at 1 p.m. Thursday at Pincushion Mountain in Grand Marais.