November 3, 2011 at 11:01 a.m.
Cloquet ended up being the site of illustrious North Branch runner Megan Zimmerman's last varsity race as a Viking.
Zimmerman, who qualified for the state tournament last year was bested in a field loaded with youngsters at the top. The senior finished 21st this year with a time of 15:56, but there were 11 runners that finished ahead of her that were sophomores or younger. The youth movement made it hard for Zimmerman to stay near the top, but she still finished with a sub-16 minute time and she closes out her career has one of the most successful runners in North Branch cross country history.
Other North Branch runners mostly stayed in a pack and had some quality finishes among them. Sophomore Casey Hovland, junior Alyssa Ramberg and sophomore Cassidy White all ran in a group with Hovland finishing in 16:22 in 38th place, Ramberg finishing in 16:23.3 in 39th place and White finishing in 16:23.4 in 41st place.
Seventh grader Rhianna Rinke wasn't far behind, finishing in 47th place in 16:36 to round out the varsity top five.
As a team, the Vikings finished in sixth place with 186 points, just edging out Big Lake, who finished with 189 points. Forest Lake and Andover took the top two spots and moved on to state with 54 points and 56 points, respectively.
North Branch had a tough go of it in the rough conditions at the Cloquet Country Club. With a biting wind and a few snow flurries coming at them, the boys were led by sophomore Kyle Crowell. Crowell finished in 41st place with a time of 17:51.
Junior Ean Charpentier was the second Viking to cross the finish line, coming in 65th place with a time of 18:22. Junior Zach Peno finished in 73rd place with a time of 18:34.
Sophomore Alex Fitcha and senior Mike Vogel ran at the same pace, finishing 84th and 85th, respectively with times of 18:51 and 18:52.
Seniors Jon Amundson and Branden Heidelberger ran their last career races in 19:07 and 19:13 for the Vikings.
As a team, the Vikings finished in 14th place out of 16 teams with 348 points. Andover and Forest Lake moved on to the state tournament. The Huskies scored 30 points and the Rangers scored 98.