Ari Backlund

Ari Backlund helped propel the OHS girls team to a runner-up finish at the Husky Invitational at Eau Claire North high school. Osceola was just nine points behind team champion Hudson. 

 

Before the season started the Osceola Chieftain cross country team appeared to have a chance to be very good, at least on paper. Osceola returned most of the squad from last year when both the girls and boys teams placed first in their respective Sectional races and finished their season at the State meet. The Chieftains also had some very promising incoming talent. 

In any sport you can analyze the on-paper aspects and theorize what may be but championship teams aren’t made of paper. The work that goes into preparing for the season is as important to the work that happens during the season. It appears that the on-paper excitement of the OHS cross country team will translate to success on the courses this year.

Osceola competed in a huge meet at Eau Claire North high school last weekend, the Husky Invitational. In a meet comprised of mostly D-1 schools the Chieftains more than held their own as a D-2 team. The Osceola girls placed second behind only Hudson who defeated the Chieftains by just nine points. 

“I am extremely happy with the results from (Saturday’s) race,” Osceola coach Rachael Robinson said. “The girls team made a very strong statement. All the miles they logged this summer and their constant desire to improve was evident in the results.”

The top finisher for Osceola was freshman Rachel Ulrich who placed second overall losing only to meet medalist Rachel Ball of Hudson. Ulrich was competing in her first high school varsity race of 5,000 meters after being a standout performer in middle school last year.

“The biggest difference between the middle school and the high school cross country races for me is the longer distance and the size of the meets,” Ulrich noted. “I can’t believe the fans and support. Also, my upperclassmen teammates have been super welcoming and helpful. I am very fortunate to be surrounded by a community of great people and role models.”

It wasn’t long after Ulrich crossed the finish line that she was joined by one of her role models, Lauren Ellefson, who placed fifth overall. Alli Fogelberg was next to cross the finish line for Osceola placing 16th overall in a field of 101 runners. Chloe Backland (24th) and Caroline Gearin (38th) closed out the scoring portion of the Chieftain lineup but were also well supported by Shaylee Feske (40th) and Ari Backlund (49th).

Now the Osceola girls team has another challenger, complacency. The Chieftains cannot afford to rest on their laurels. With coach Robinson and assistant coach Theresa Ellefson holding the reins and a bevy of talent behind the varsity that is not likely to happen.

The Osceola boys team also did very well placing sixth out of 13 teams. The Chieftains biggest battle right now is to get healthy. Osceola is battling some injuries to key performers but the deep and talented squad is stepping up to fill the gaps. The Chieftains were led by Quinn McDonald (17th), who was followed by Nick Kremer (28th), Zach Solsrud (29th), Ethan Robinson (47th), Blake Slater (48th), Jacob Hall (52nd) and Dylan Salewski (64th) in a star filled field of 99 runners.

“The boys team showed how far the depth of their talent goes,” Robinson said. “We are patiently working through some injuries, yet we still had numerous career PRs (personal records) and breakthrough races. “I am extremely proud of the whole team’s effort.”

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