The Big Lake boys varsity cross-country team finished seventh at the state meet at the Les Bolstad Golf Course on the St. Paul campus of the University of Minnesota on Saturday.
It was the end of a successful season for the Hornets, who won the Section 5AA title a week earlier to advance to their third straight state appearance.
“This was a bit of a surprise, since the Hornets lost five of their top nine runners from last year, that included three of our top five,” said Coach Todd Trutna. “On top of that, one varsity member broke a collarbone near the midpoint of the season and another developed bronchitis.”
But the team came through and proved they deserved to be there.
Jack Leuer and Owen Layton both ran an outstanding race. Leuer placed third in 15:26.8.
“This is the best finish all-time by a male Big Lake runner at the state meet,” said Coach Trutna.
Layton finished seventh in 15:48.6. He and Leuer ran close to the lead and were in the top 10 positions before champion Eli Hall from Pequot Lakes started to pull away. Leuer and Layton were in the second chase pack in sixth and seventh before Leuer closed the gap and moved up. Layton held position for the remainder of the race. It was his fifth trip to the state meet, the most ever for the Big Lake boys.
Both Jack and Owen earned All-State Honors for the third time.
Next came 10th-graders Gavin Flavin and Trent Erickson and eighth-grader Judd Layton.
“The state meet experience can be a bit overwhelming, so we asked this group to find each other and stick together for the first part of the race,” said Coach Trutna. “These three controlled their pace at the first mile, lost a few positions in the second mile, but gained them back to close well.”
They finished together: Erickson (97th, 17:26.6), Layton (100th, 17:27.8) and Flavin (105th, 17:33.7).
Senior David Guyse, on his third state team showed his experience by starting out strong and picking up 15 spots over the last two miles to finish in 18:14. First-time state entrant Gavin Vold also passed 15 after the mile split to finish in 18:14.5.
Theo Johnson and Max Baron were Big Lake’s alternates for the meet. Both ran on varsity quite a bit this year and the experience of being with the team and practicing on the course will help in the coming years.
“Looking at how things played out with our runners and other teams, seventh place is about as well as we could do this year,” said Coach Trutna. “Hopefully, we’ll be back again next year and build on what we’ve accomplished here.”
That could happen, with only two seniors leaving: Owen Layton and David Guyse, plus some anticipated development of a strong middle-school squad.
For the girls, seventh-grader Greta Layton placed 93rd overall in a time of 20:37. She was the first girl from Big Lake to qualify for the state championship since Noelle Olson in 2012. She started this season running the 3000 meters on the middle school team.
“After the first few days of summer practice and then seeing her in the first couple meets where she ran the middle school races, we thought that she might have a pretty good shot at getting to state,” said Coach Trutna.
She ended up as the top Hornet varsity runner and finished eighth in sections to qualify for the state meet.
“Just getting to the state meet made the season a success for Greta,” said Coach Trutna. “I know she would have liked to have been a little faster and finished a few places higher, but her time of 20:37 was in the ballpark of her better times of the year, and given the course difficulty and conditions, she did awesome.”
She was the fifth seventh-grader across the line in the AA race, showing again just how special her performance was.