SHERBURN - The No. 5-ranked Martin County West Maverick boys cross country team finished in 13th place last year during its first-ever state meet appearance.
After upsetting the No. 8-ranked Waseca Bluejays in the Section 2A Meet last Thursday at the Riverside Town & Country Club golf course near Blue Earth, the Mavericks are hoping to finish even higher in this year's Class A state team standings at 10 a.m. Saturday at St. Olaf College in Northfield.
"You can't compare times of section meets to previous years because the course switches, but six of our seven gentlemen improved upon their placings from last year's section meet," said Martin County West head coach Stannetta Svoboda. "We talked this week about how the St. Olaf course is definitely fast and flat, and they all want to hit personal-best times."
HEADED FOR NORTHFIELD — Members of the Martin County West Maverick boys cross country team competing at the Class A state meet at 10 a.m. Saturday at St. Olaf College in Northfield include, front row (l-r): Nick Holm, Daniel Smith and Chris Kahler. Back row: Joshua Bjerken, Dylan Brockman, Jonah Mayo, Walter Fuller, Matthew Viesselman and Brandon Kluver. Madelia/Truman’s Ricki Fenske and Cade Ekstrom (insets) also will compete in the state meet as individuals. (Photo by Leanna Becker)
In last week's section meet, Jonah Mayo led the Mavericks with a fourth-place overall 5,000-meter time of 16:46. MCW finished with four runners in the top 15 to edge out the Bluejays for the Section 2 team crown.
With top performances in the top 15, the Mavericks were guaranteed at least two state spots for individuals, even if the team had not qualified.
"Our runners did such a good job at the section meet that even if the team hadn't qualified, then we would have had at least two boys qualify individually for state," said Svoboda.
For the Maverick boys team, this year's state meet has an added jolt of excitement because the girls team also will be competing Saturday.
"Our parents were working on making big signs for Saturday this week, and there will be a pepfest on Friday. I told them to enjoy the events and excitement, but that they still need to rest and come to practice ready," said Svoboda.
This year's state meet will be filled with more expectation and hope for an improved team finish by the Mavericks, too.
"The course itself is pretty flat, but there is one big hill and it's right before the finish. So we did our last hill workout this week and we are fine-tuning some strategy and speed hoping that we can go up there and surprise some of the other teams," said Svoboda.
Madelia/Truman's Cade Ekstrom and Ricki Fenske will join the Martin County West boys team in the state competition in Northfield.
Fenkse will be competing in his second consecutive state meet from an individual standpoint, while Ekstrom just missed qualifying last season due to a hip injury.
Ekstrom has been ranked in the top 12 individually as a runner this season, but nearing the end of the season, has had some tough competition from Fenske.
At last Thursday's section meet, Fenske placed ninth overall by finishing just one second behind Ekstrom in eighth place.
In last year's state meet, Fenske finished 62nd in 17:26.6, compared to his section time of 16:58 this year.
For Ekstrom, this will be his second state meet appearance overall. As a sophomore two year ago, Ekstrom finished 23rd with a time of 16:39.
Defending champion and No. 2-ranked St. Cloud Cathedral tops the Mavericks' opponents as it has six returning runners from last year's first-place team.
Martin County West also will compete against No. 1-ranked Perham, No. 3 Minnehaha Academy, No. 4 The Blake School, No. 6 Redwood Valley, No. 7 Winona Cotter, No. 8 Waseca, No. 9 Proctor, No. 10 Esko, No. 11 Plainview-Elgin-Millville, co-No. 12 Albany and Pelican Rapids, along with unranked Luverne, Mora and Park Rapids Area.
Top returning medal-winners to watch will be Foley senior Charlie Lawrence, who finished third last year; along with Waseca sophomore Shane Streich, who finished fifth; and St. Cloud Cathedral junior Nick Golebiowski, who finished eighth. Lawrence finished this season ranked No. 2, while Streich was ranked 4th and Golebiowski 5th.
The Class A state boys cross country meet will start at 10 a.m. Saturday.