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Cross-country story lines: Trio of ninth-grade girls tops in nation

09/05/2017, 8:16pm CDT
By David La Vaque, Star Tribune

Anna Fenske, Tierney Wolfgram and Grace Ping are the fastest in the nation in their class.


Eighth-grader Anna Fenske of Farmington won the Class 2A girls’ cross-country state meet at St. Olaf College last fall.

Minnesota boasts the three fastest freshman girls’ cross-country runners in the nation, according to MileSplit USA.

Anna Fenske of Farmington won the Class 2A state meet and Tierney Wolfgram of Math and Science Academy in Woodbury triumphed in 1A. Grace Ping of Winona Cotter, the 1A champ in 2015, returns to the local scene after living for a year in Utah.

“They know each other fairly well and make up an insanely talented freshman trio,” said Brendan Ruter, Math and Science Academy cross-country coach.

Wayzata loaded

The gang is all here for the defending 2A boys’ champion Trojans. Four runners cracked the Minnesota Coach’s Association preseason rankings: Khalid Hussein (1) Grant Price (4), Blake Buysse (10) and Andrew Brandt (12). In addition, Grant Matthews received votes.

“I’m sure the rest of the state will catch up and those rankings will change within the first few weeks,” Trojans’ coach Mark Popp said. “Still, that’s a pretty good spot to be in.”

A knee issue hampered Hussein’s track and field season, but he recovered over the summer and resumed a full training load. He will be pushed in Section 6 by Joseph Minor of Minneapolis Washburn and Edina’s Max Manley.

Edina runs deep

Class 2A, Section 6 — featuring Edina, Minnetonka and Minneapolis Washburn — is a monster among girls’ programs as well. The defending champion Hornets have an edge in depth.

Emily Kompelien, Maria Rickman and Morgan Richter all made the preseason poll. Kompelien, a talented runner who coach Matt Gabrielson said “puts in her personal best effort everyday” is the Hornets’ fastest returner. Rickman placed 10th in the state meet as a freshman two years ago. Richter, coming back from injury, placed 10th last fall. And Liesl Schreiner finished 16th two years ago.

Surviving Section 6 won’t be easy, however, with Washburn’s Emily Covert and Minnetonka teammates Sophie Whicher and Elizabeth Halbmaier in the mix.

“It will then be a battle at state between whichever of those two teams make it out of our section,” Gabrielson said.

Others to watch

Buffalo’s Isaac Basten helped the Bison to state. Roseville’s Acer Iverson and Blaine’s Benjamin Olson were all-state performers. And a talented trio of Section 3 competitors will battle again: Trenton Allen (Eagan), Myles Fleming (Henry Sibley) and Luke Labatte (Rosemount). In Class 1A, Mounds Park Academy’s Declan Dahlberg seeks to repeat as state champion.

On the girls’ side in 2A, Lauren Peterson of Farmington placed second at state last year behind teammate Fenske and won the 3,200-meter race at the state track and field meet.

Regan Duffy of Forest Lake and Annalise Davis of St. Michael-Albertville are poised to lead their teams back to state.

Wilson to assist

Gary Wilson, former University of Minnesota women’s cross-country and track and field coach, joins the White Bear Lake girls’ cross-country staff as an assistant.

He is reunited with Bears’ head coach Patti Percival, a former Gophers’ runner and assistant coach.

Wilson’s teams made 15 appearances at the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships.

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