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Cross country: Consistent Cardinals take eighth at state

Alexandria freshman Aleah Miller (403) and junior Caitlin Bright run together during the girls Class AA state cross country meet at St. Olaf College in Northfield on Saturday. (Micah Friez / Echo Press)1 / 2
Alexandria junior Bethany Miller rounds a corner during the girls Class AA state cross country meet at St. Olaf College in Northfield on Saturday. (Micah Friez / Echo Press)2 / 2

The Alexandria girls cross country team didn’t change a thing during Saturday’s Class AA state meet at St. Olaf College in Northfield.

That’s what made all the difference.

“You come down here, a lot of teams with young girls, they want to do well and do things differently,” Cardinals head coach Travis Hochhalter said. “I was really proud of these girls not doing anything differently and just deciding to go out there and compete.”

Instead of pushing too hard too early, the Alexandria runners paced themselves perfectly, setting six personal records and taking eighth place as a team.

“My goal for today was to do my best, and I really did,” said Jaelyn Miller, who was first among the Cardinals. “I PRed, and I finished with (three) other teammates. That’s exciting.”

Jaelyn’s sister, Aleah, was closest behind in a crowded finish for Alexandria.

“I really wanted to race well and I wanted to PR,” Aleah said. “It’s really satisfying (to do so). I feel really good about it. It’s one of those magical feelings where you can have your best race at state. It’s the race to do it.”

Jaelyn finished with a time of 19:02.8, good for 35th among the field. Aleah was 36th at 19:03.1, and Caitlin Bright crossed in 19:03.8 for 37th. Bethany Miller rounded out Alexandria’s top four, closing in 19:04.7 for 41st.

“I’m really proud of our team,” Aleah said. “Us four -- Caitlin, me, Bethany and Jaelyn -- we all finished close together, and we raced pretty close together, too. That’s how we like to race.”

Farmington’s Lauren Peterson was first individually with a time of 17:28.8, while St. Michael-Albertville had 70 points to claim the team title. The Cardinals had 232 points for eighth.

“It’s crazy how big the state meet is, so I’m really excited I got to be a part of it,” Jaelyn said. “I think I’ll always remember the state meet.”

“I’ve got chills down my back. These girls, during the season, have just worked so hard,” Hochhalter added. “When I saw the smiles on their faces, it was a delight to see how well they raced. … We exceeded expectations just a little bit, so that’s a really good thing.”

Heavyn Bordak rounded out the team score for Alexandria, as she raced to a 83rd-place time of 20:14.3, while Taelor Summer (20:38.7, 94th) and Stormy Hegg (20:48.0, 96th) closed the Cardinal results.

Alexandria was shooting for a top-10 finish, so Hochhalter was pleased to come in eighth. But he’s even more optimistic about the future of Cardinal cross country.

“You look at our program right now, and a lot of people are looking toward Alexandria because we are so young with one senior (in Hegg),” he said. “Every single one in the top five that scored today, they’re all coming back. … It’s a good thing for things to come in the Alexandria girls program.”

Hochhalter hopes Saturday’s success translates to more of the same in years to come.

“I’m so proud of these girls and looking forward to what they decide to do with it now,” he said. “It’s not an end point. It actually is kind of a starting point.”

GIRLS AA TEAM RESULTS

1-St. Michael-Albertville 70; 2-Wayzata 75; 3-Edina; 4-Farmington 105; 5-Stillwater Area 143; 6-Andover 172; 7-Willmar 191; 8-Alexandria 232; 9-Forest Lake 235; 10-Marshall 256; 11-Rosemount 269; 12-White Bear Lake 291; 13-Lakeville South 292; 14-Rocori 326; 15-Mounds View 407; 16-Prior Lake 441.

Micah Friez

Micah Friez covers Bemidji State basketball and BSU for the Bemidji Pioneer. A native of East Grand Forks, Minn., he is a 2018 graduate of Bemidji State with a degree in Creative and Professional Writing. Follow him on Twitter at @micahfriez for Beaver basketball updates.

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