November 9, 2006 at 9:09 a.m.
We don’t expect big crowds at some of the more “individual” sports. It’s not usually difficult to find a spot to watch your favorite player at a tennis meet. Fans can find a place to put their lawnchairs outside the fence near their court of choice. At golf meets, it’s rare that more than a few fans can be found following a foursome. Those of you who have been to cross country meets have rarely needed to push your way through the crowd to get a good look.
If you traveled to Northfield last Saturday (November 4) for your first look at the State Cross Country Meet, you may have been surprised. Your first indication that things were different than other meets probably met you about eight miles from your destination.
Northfield is about as far south of the Twin Cities as we are north. Most Saturday afternoons, you wouldn’t likely run into traffic problems. November 4, as you drove south on I35, you may have been caught off guard. A mile north of the Northfield exit, one of those big green signs warned you to get into the right hand lane. As you reached the crest of the last hill before your intended exit, you viewed a line of cars at least a quarter mile long.
A good share of the occupants of those cars were waiting to exit onto Rice County 19, the road that leads to Northfield. The beautiful city is home to 17 or 18,000 residents and two colleges. The Cannon River flows through an attractively restored downtown. The streets are lined with antique and gift shops, taverns and coffee shops
Up the hill to the east is Carelton College, known as one of the best liberal arts schools in the country. Carelton is an old school, with old buildings. The red stone architecture brings to mind older private schools in the northeastern U.S.
St. Olaf College sits atop the hills to the west. This school also enjoys a reputation for academic excellence. The gray stone buildings on campus create a beautiful, dignified backdrop for the State Meet.
Numerous sweatshirts, jackets and hats bearing the logos of Carleton and St. Olaf could be seen among the crowd at the race. College students, faculty and staff of all ages were at the meet, cheering on the runners. It seems that the community has really embraced the event. It seems to be a very fitting site for such an event.
Also among the crowd was a strong contingent of local supporters. Hunter fans were not hard to spot (see photo above). Many parents and fans from North Branch were also there. Familiar red and white North Branch Viking letterjackets were very visible in the crowd.
“It was so nice to see all of the North Branch people who were there to support the team,” said North Branch Assistant coach Brian Hasleiet.