November 2, 2006 at 8:21 a.m.
Thursday, October 26, the Viking boys won the 7AA Meet at Cloquet with 70 points, just four points ahead of the aptly named Duluth East Greyhounds. The combined time for the fastest five Vikings was 19 seconds better than the Duluth East total.
Not only did the Vikings win the team championship, senior Nick Ramberg was the individual winner. His time over the 5K course (16:53.2) gave him a 4.1 second margin over Greyhound senior Erik Johnson.
Ramberg had plenty of help. Senior teammate JJ Koerber was 12th in the 112-runner race with a time of 17:15.9. Sophomores Ryan Norman (13th-17:16.3) and Mike Heidelberger (17th-17:30.8) were followed by senior Brandon “One-Shoe” Nagle (27th-17:55.4). Seniors Cody Good (18:25.2) and Aaron Cedergren (18:33.6) also finished in the top 50 for the Vikes.
As usually occurs in a big meet like this, there was a good deal of jockeying for position as the runners left the line. About 200 meters into the race, somebody stepped on the heel of Nagle’s shoe, tearing it from his foot. “The thing that was so amazing about it,” said Viking coach Brian Hasleiet, “was that he never gave any indication that it had happened.” He went on to finish the race as if nothing had happened.”
“I didn’t want it to be my fault if we didn’t make it to state,” Nagle later told Hasleiet. “He showed unbelievable focus and determination. We were probably lucky that we were running on a golf course. There wasn’t that much for him to step on,” Hasleiet continued.
It was probably fortunate that it happened to Nagle, instead of another runner. Nagle had the same thing happen in a race two years ago.
The Viking girls team came in with an eighth place finish. “All the girls were disappointed,” said Hasleiet, “but they had so much adversity this season.” He was referring to the injuries that the team has dealt with all year. Ninth grader Haley Hasleiet missed a good share of the season as did eight grader Ali Zimmerman, who was still unable to run because of an injury.
The NB girls were led by ninth grader Miranda Charley, whose time (16:16.32) put her in 24th. Hasleiet was next (26th-16:21.7) followed by eighth graders Shayna Gray (27th-16:24.5) and Kendra Norman (41st-16:45.1). Tenth grader Briana Berthiaume (47th-16:58.5) came in fifth for the Vikes. Junior Tiffany Peterson (17:23.7) and seventh grader Megan Zimmerman (17:25.80 completed the Viking effort.
Even the North Branch coach was a winner this year. Viking head coach Ward Gilkerson, who’s been guiding NB runners since 1973, was selected as the Section 7AA Boys and Girls Coach of the Year.
Gilkerson, who was home, recovering from a recent surgery, was kept updated by North Branch coach Doniver Ahlm. “Doniver called during the race to keep me aware of what was going on. He handed the phone to Nick (Ramberg), who told me about the win,” Gilkerson said.
Later that evening, the longtime coach got another surprise. “That was fun. I was laying down here and Anna came in and said, ‘There’s a schoolbus in the yard’,” Gilkerson added.
Soon thereafter, the whole North Branch team, boys and girls, went into the Gilkerson home and presented their trophy to the coach. The last time a North Branch CC team qualified for the State Meet was in 1976, Gilkerson’s fourth season.
The team will travel to St. Olaf College in Northfield for the State Meet Saturday, November 4. The boys race begins at 1 p.m.