VIRGINIA — The sound of a starting gun kicked off the 2021 cross country season for many of the athletes at the Virginia Invitational at the Virginia Golf Course.

14 schools from Section 7A and Section 7AA took on the 5,000 meter course with teams once again getting the feel for competitive racing.

On the boys side, Rock Ridge was the team champion with 43 points. Ely was fifth with 131. Hibbing finished sixth (157), Mesabi East was seventh (185) and Mountain Iron-Buhl was eighth (189).

For the girls race, Hibbing came out on top with 55 points. Rock Ridge finished second with 78. Ely and Mesabi East tied for fifth with 127, but the tiebreaker fell in favor of the Timberwolves, moving the Giants to sixth. Mountain Iron-Buhl took seventh with 134.

Individually, the Wolverines were paced on the boys side with a second place finish from Aaron Nelson (16:53.2) and a third place finish from Cameron Stocke (17:18.6). Mountain Iron-Buhl’s Jeffrey Kayfes was fifth (17:47.3) and Mesabi East’s Carter Skelton took sixth (18:03.9). Cromwell/Floodwood’s Noah Foster was the individual champion with a time of 16:51.4.

On the girls side, MI-B’s Kate (21:12.5) and Liz Nelson (21:17.0) were top finishes with the pair taking second and third respectively amongst the 85-runner field. Hibbing’s Gianna Giueroa was fifth (21:26.0), Mesabi East’s Aubree Skelton was sixth (21:45.8) and Ely’s Zoe Devine was seventh (21:46.9). Hibbing’s Abigail Theien also earned medalist honors with a ninth place finish (22:15.6).

Rock Ridge co-head coach Chris Ismil said it was a solid day for the Wolverines in their first meet. For many, it was a chance to learn or relearn how to run a 5K course.

“We kind of took this race as a training run race,” Ismil said. “We wanted to get back into the racementality. For the real young ones, they’re learning how to pace and run a race for the first time. The older ones are trying to remember how to deal with a faster course like this. Our focus was to go hard, compete and just take this like a training run. We weren’t here to PR today.”

Rock Ridge scoring was rounded out by Jared Delich in 12th (18:38.5), Jake Bradach in 15th (18:51.7) and Jack Kendall in 16th (19:08.2).

Ely was paced by Jake Cochran in 18th (19:20.9). Teammate Caid Chittum was 27th (19:55.1). Jon Hakala was 29th (20:10.8) and Otto Devine was 30th (20:10.8). Leo Stalmer rounded out the Timberwolves scoring in 32th place (20:28.0).

Lucas Arnhold led the Hibbing boys contingent with a 19th place finish (19:23.0). Mitchell Anderson took 33rd (20:31.5. Zach Rusich was 37th (20:43.7), Oliver Stevens was 39th (20:50.1) and Christian Massich was 42nd (20:58.9).

Alex Leete finished second for Mesabi East in 28th place (19:57.8). Ben Gornik took 53rd for the Giants (21:45.8). Tim Green took 68th place (22:15.1) and Carson Slattery finished in 73rd (22:37.5).

Rylen Niska was the second fastest runner for the MI-B boys, taking 24th place with a time of 19:46.1. Leighton Helander took 50th for the Rangers (21:42.6). Spencer Sandberg was 83rd (23:04.8), Jasper Helander was 91st (23:58.9) and Isaiah Goggleye took 104th (25:19.4).

Chisholm was led by Isaac Flemming in 92nd place with a time of 24:09.0. Finishing with just four runners, the Bluestreaks did not record a team score.

On the girls’ side, Hibbing’s winning score was rounded out by Jorie Anderson in 13th place (22:52.7), Reese Aune in 18th (23:20.5) and Mileena Sladek in 22nd (23:30.6).

Lexi Lamppa led for Rock Ridge with a 12th place finish (22:47.9). Kaari Harsila took 17th (23:11.8), Avah Kraushaar was 19th (23:20.6) and Emma Lamppa was 21st (23:27.1). Katelyn Torrell rounded out the RR scoring with a 29th place finish (24:32.9).

Finishing behind Devine for Ely was Phoebe Helms in 11th place (22:39.1). Gracie Pointer took 36th (25:08.5). Anna Dunn took 52nd (26:35.3) and Sydney Durkins rounded out the Ely scoring with a time of 29:35.9, enough for 72nd place.

Chloe Green aided the Mesabi East cause with a 14th place finish (22:53.7) with teammate Hannah Ronning taking 41st (25:44.7). Hailey Ronning finished in 50th (26:21.4) and Lilly Lyons rounded out the scoring for the Giants in 64th place (28:39.9).

Mountain Iron-Buhl’s score was aided by Collie Otto in 63rd place (28:38.6), Ginny Moe in 68th place (29:08.2) and Ava Butler in 69th place (29:14.7)

A meet with several 7A and 7AA teams in attendance, Ismil said it was important to get a good mix so schools could see who they may need to compete with by season’s end.

“We can see these are our competitors. This is who we’ll see by the end of the season. For some of them, the goal was to maybe hang around one of those kids or pace yourself to them. I think it was a great introduction and a great way to start the season. It’s the first meet of a season that’s longer than last year and I think the kids were excited to start here.”

On Rock Ridge’s top runner in Aaron Nelson, Ismil said he was aware of the senior’s potential, but was pleasantly surprised with a top two finish.

“He didn’t run for us last year but he came back this year knowing he was going to be a solid runner for us. He has great potential. I expected maybe a top five finish but performed really well for us today.”

Many area cross country teams will be back in action next Thursday at the GNK invite at Eagle Ridge.

Boys team results: 1, Rock Ridge, 43; 2, Esko, 63; 3, Duluth Denfeld, 96; 4, Grand Rapids, 107; 5, Ely, 131; 6, Hibbing, 157; 7, Mesabi East, 185; 8, Mountain Iron-Buhl, 189; 9, Hermantown, 192.

Girls team results: 1, Hibbing, 55; 2, Rock Ridge, 78; 3, Grand Rapids, 104; 4, Esko, 115; 5, Ely, 127; 6, Mesabi East, 127; 7, Mountain Iron-Buhl, 134; 8, Hermantown, 181; 9, Hill City, 228.

Boys medalists (top 10): Noah Foster, Cromwell/Floodwood, 16:51.4; 2, Aaron Nelson, RR, 16:53.2; 3, Cameron Stocke, RR, 17:18.6 4, Nathaniel Rengo, Esk, 17:41.4; 5, Jeffrey Kayfes, MIB, 17:47.3; 6, Carter Skelton, ME, 18:03.9; 7, Xander Schroeder, DD, 18:19.3; 8, Austin Hanson, GR, 18:23.4; 9, Michael Cornell, Esk, 18:27.0; 10, Jack Williams, Esk, 18:30.3.

Girls medalists (top 10): Keegan McAuliffe, Duluth Marshall, 21:08.2; 2, Kate Nelson, MIB, 21:12.5; 3, Liz Nelson, MIB, 21:17.0; 4, Grace Hrabik, Esk, 21:21.7; 5, Gianna Figueroa, H, 21:25.0; 6, Aubree Skelton, ME, 21:45.8; 7, Zoe Devine, Ely, 21:46.9; 8, Ella Karkela, GR, 22:15.1; 9, Abigail Theien, H, 22:15.6; 10, Emaleigh Olesiak, C/F, 22:16.1.

Local boys finishers: 12, Jared Delich, RR, 18:38.5; 15, Jake Bradach, RR, 18:51.7; 16, Jack Kendall, RR, 19:08.2; 18, Jake Cochran, Ely, 19:20.9; 19, Lucas Arhnhold, H, 19:23.0; 23, Anthony Hecimovich, RR, 19:35.1; 24, Rylen Niska, MIB, 19:46.1; 27, Caid Chittum, Ely, 19:55.1; 28, Alex Leete, ME, 19:57.8; 29, Jon Hakala, Ely, 20:10.8; 30, Otto Devine, Ely, 20:10.8; 32, Leo Stalmer, Ely, 20:28.0; 33, Mitchell Anderson, H, 20:31.5; 34, Aidan Hecimovich, RR, 20:37.8; 36, Grant Hutar, RR, 20:41.2; 37. Zach Rusich, H, 20:43.7; 38, Hudson, Pietrini, RR, 20:45.4; 39, Oliver Stevens, H, 20:50.1; 41, Jace Huntbatch, Ely, 20:55.3; 42, Christian Massich, 20:58.9; 43, Taite Murden, H, 20:59.5; 44, Ben Vacalier, Ely, 21:13.3; 45, Connor Matschiner, RR, 21:14.9; 46, Carson Brown, H, 21:22.3; 50, Leighton Helander, MIB, 21:42.6; 52, Ethan Aune, H, 21:45.8; 53, Ben Gornik, ME, 21:45.8; 55, Silas Solum, Ely, 21:49.6; 56 Will Peterson, RR, 21:49.8; 64, Gage Thielbar, RR, 22:11.4; 65, Wade Harsila, RR, 22:12.3; 66, Matt Koski, RR, 22:13.4; 68, Tim Green, ME, 22:15.1; 70, Brady Janezich, H, 22:28.5; 71, Casey Aune, RR, 22:31.9; 73, Carson Slattery, ME, 22:37.5; 75, Silas Langner, H, 22:43.8; 76, Jack Bottoms, H, 22:46.4; 79, Cooper Williams, RR, 22:50.6; 80, Austin Valento, H, 22:51.2; 83, Spencer Sandberg, MIB, 23:04.8; 90, Henrik Murray, ME, 23:55.2; 91, Jasper Helander, MIB, 23:58.9; 92, isaac Flemming, Chis, 24:09.0; 93, AJ Hultman, RR, 24:10.3; 95, Leif Sundquist, RR, 24:24.5; 97, Dylan Durkin, Ely, 24:31.4; 103, Justin Walker, H, 25:16.5; 104, Isaiah Goggleye, MIB, 25:19.4; 107, Eli Olson, 25:29.6, Ely ; 116, Hayden Roche, Chis, 26:45.1; 117, Ben Thompson, Chis, 26:45.7; 118, Warren Novak, Chis, 26:48.2; 120, Jaydon Peglow, RR, 34:47.4; 133, Levi Bjorge, RR, 35:39.2.

Local girls finishers: 11, Phoebe Helms, 22:39.1; 12, Lexi Lamppa, RR, 22:47.9; 13, Jorie Anderson, H, 22:52.7; 14, Chloe Green, ME, 22:53.7; 17, Kaari Harsila, RR, 23:11.8; 18. Reese Aune, H, 23:20.5; 19, Avah Kraushaar, RR, 23:20.6; 21. Emma Lamppa, RR, 23:27.1; 22, Mileena Sladek, H, 23:30.6; 24, Jocelyn Strukel, H, 23:37.0; 25, Avery Kukowski, H, 23:37.4; 27, Charleigh Hartl, H, 24:08.8; 28, Justine McDonald, H, 24:11.0; 29, Katelyn Torrel, RR, 24:32.9; 30, Alizah Langner, H, 24:33.5; 32, Miriam Milani, H, 24:52.7; 36, Gracie Pointer, Ely, 25:08.5; 41, Hannah Ronning, ME, 25:44.7; 44, Mia Schuchard, RR, 26:01.6; 47, Becca Kowalski, RR, 26:16.7; 49, Emma Reini, H, 26:19.7; 50, Hailey Ronning, ME, 26:21.4; 52, Anna Dunn, Ely, 26:35.3; 55, Grace Bigelow, H, 26:54.2; 56, Amanda Johnson, RR, 26:56.0; 59, Monroe Rewertz, H, 28:34.1; 62, Jillain Zeidler, RR, 28:35.4; 63, Colie Otto, MIB, 28:38.6; 64, Lilly Lyons, ME, 28:39.9; 65, Amarah Langner, H, 28:40.8; 67, Clara DeVries, RR, 29:04.2; 68, Ginny Moe, MIB, 29:08.2; 69, Ava Butler, MIB, 29:14.7; 72, Sydney Durkins, Ely, 29:35.9; 75, Jaynee Peterson, RR, 30:35.2; 80, Aalyah Webb, MIB, 31:53.1; 82, Juliet Stouffer, Ely, 32:57.3; 83, Hannah Plese, ME, 33:48.8.

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