La Crescent-Hokah’s cross country teams opened their seasons Aug. 30 at the 20-team Stewartville Invitational.

Injury, illness and inexperience led to a typical first meet mixed bag of results for the Lancers, as the boys varsity placed third, while the girls varsity was incomplete and did not qualify for a team score.

The big question for the Lancer boys this fall is who will step up to replace graduated seniors Matt Steiger, the 2017 state champion, Cole Fechner, and Andrew Jaquette.

With lone senior Dane McCormick back at home with stomach flu, a group of five juniors toed the starting line for the Lancers, and Thomas Lechnir led a pack of teammates Camdan Nolop, Jake Boudreau and Bryce Duffy over the opening mile of the 5000 meter race.

In the second mile, Lechnir began to put some space between himself and the rest of the team and appeared to be in contention for a top-five finish.

Over the final 1800 meters, Lechnir lost some ground to the leaders and settled for a 7th place finish in 18:18. Nolop finished strongly in 8th in 18:20, then Boudreau had a great closing stretch to notch the first top ten finish of his career, hitting 10th on the nose in 18:25. Although he had been within a couple of seconds of Boudreau at the 3200 meter mark, Duffy’s wheels spun off over the final third of the race and he wound up 30th in 19:33. Austin Embke’s 63rd place finish in 21:01 completed the Lancer varsity effort.

Although the Lancers had three runners in the chute in the top 10, compared to just one for 10th ranked boys from Jordan, the depth of the Hubmen carried them to victory in the meet with a score of 66 points. In a close finish, Pine Island’s total of 108 earned them the second place trophy, while the Lancers total of 114 placed them just ahead of fourth place Rochester Area Home School’s 124 in the field of 17 complete teams.

With only one senior, one junior, one sophomore and one freshman on the starting line in the girls race, La Crescent-Hokah knew it would not qualify for a team score before the gun went off.

The Lancer pack of Molly Franzose, Katy Steffes, Ashley Muenzenberger and Lydia Rosendahl stuck together in the early going, hitting the mile mark in identical 7:20 split times. Rosendahl and Steffes stayed stride-for-stride in the second mile, while Muenzenberger slid back slightly and Franzose began to fall away from her teammates. The lead Lancers stayed together all the way to the finish line, with freshman Rosendahl getting the nod at 25th place over junior Steffes in 26th, although both had identical 23:11 times. Muenzenberger placed 39th in 23:55 and Franzose hung on to place 54th in 25:10.

Second-ranked Winona Cotter used a 1-2-3 finish from Grace and Lauren Ping and Morgan Arnold to easily win the meet with 33 points, while Rochester Home School upset the state-ranked host Stewartville Tigers for second by a margin of 70 to 77 in the field of thirteen complete teams.

In lower-level races, freshmen Cody Kowalski and Jack Redmen went 1-2 in the JV Boys Race in 19:49 and 19:50, but did not have five finishers to have a team score. Likewise in the JV Girls Race, where freshman Julia Lechnir had the best Lancer finish in 27:06. Both Jr High teams were complete and eighth graders Nick Wieser and Ethan Fransose went 1-2 in the 1600 meter Jr High Boys Race to lead teammates Jack Kreutzman, Austin Smith and Wyatt Farrell to the team win. Eighth grader Autumn Rabe had a fourth place finish and teamed with Gracie Van Lin, Emma Stavenau, Olivia Seidel and Izzy Von Arx to a fourth-place finish.

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