The winds were howling in St. Croix Central at the first Osceola Chieftain cross country race of the season. The running format was different and difficult for both runners and spectators as the boys and girls races were each run in five different stages instead of all runners starting at the same time. The athletes had a more difficult time knowing how they were doing in the race because of the staged setup. The changes were necessary for safety concerns brought about by the coronavirus.
Okay, it was not your classic cross country race that Osceola fans have grown to love, but they were racing. Adjustments need to be made in many areas as the safety of all is the highest priority. The Chieftains and the other seven teams in the Middle Border conference made the adjustments and the racing season began. It looks like it may be a repeat of the last few years with Osceola battling it out with the New Richmond Tigers and the St. Croix Central Panthers for the top spot in the conference.
“How do I sum up the first meet of 2020 for the Osceola cross country team,” Osceola coach Rachael Robinson asked herself? “With a wide variety of adjectives. Grateful we made it here. Proud of how well our veteran athletes adjusted to the new way of racing, and finally, I am extremely impressed with our rookies. With the staggered starts, they had to race mostly by themselves. It’s not easy doing all that hard work by yourself, but they never faltered.”
The Osceola girls, who finished second at the State meet last season, held off a feisty St. Croix Central team to claim the top spot in the girls’ race. The Chieftains ran up a score of 38, a dozen points ahead of SCC. New Richmond finished in third, 20 points behind the Panthers.
St. Croix Central had the individual winner as senior Mya Kizer ended the 5,000 meter race in 19:53.2. Kizer was followed by a pair of Chieftains as Rachel Ulrich placed second and Lauren Ellefson was third. Alli Fogelberg was next in line for Osceola as she finished in eighth place overall. Chloe Backland was the fourth Osceola runner to finish the course as she hit the finish line in 10th place. The Chieftains then had a pair of freshmen in the fifth and sixth spots as Merri Johnson placed 15th overall and Adelyn Ellefson was 21st. Margaret Nalen completed the OHS varsity effort with a 33rd place finish.
“I thought today went well for our first meet of the season,” Fogelberg said. “Although it was different than we were used to, we made the best of the situation and gave it our all.”
New Richmond placed first in the boys’ race followed by Osceola and then St. Croix Central. The Tigers had the race’s top two finishers led by Max Blader who finished the 5,000 meter race in 16:45.5. Osceola’s Quinn McDonald was next in line finishing in third place overall. Chieftain Kolten Heimbach was the next Osceola finisher claiming the seventh spot, just holding off his teammate, freshman Ethan Hall. Dylan Salewski and Carver Lundholm both cracked the top 20 with Salewski placing 17th and Lundholm 19th to complete the Chieftain varsity scoring. Michael O’Connor and Dillion Peterson ran in the sixth and seventh spots respectively for OHS.
“I feel like the boys competed very well,” Heimbach said. “It was our first race and it was a very interesting race due to Covid. But we’re all very happy that we’re able to compete and we’re all putting everything we got on the course like it’s our last race.”