November 1, 2018 at 2:31 p.m.
Joe Nihart and Matt Stuber paced each other well throughout the meet and finished with sub-17 minute times to earn 11th and 12th place for North Branch. The top 15 runners make it to the state tourney.
The pair led all area runners at the Section 7AA meet at Princeton Golf Course on Saturday, October 27.
Nihart was the higher finisher, wrapping up the 5,000 meter run in 16:57.1. It actually tied him with Aidan Ripp of Cloquet, but Nihart was awarded 11th place. Stuber finished in 12th place with a time of 16:59.4, just two seconds behind his teammate.
Despite finishing comfortably within the top 15, the times were so much closer in the last group. The 16th place runner, who was the first runner out of state qualification, finished in 17:04.5, just five seconds behind Stuber. It shows the heart and grit the two showed to finish with a large group around them.
“Soon after their track season they both were ready to get started on their quest to get to the state meet,” Assistant Coach Tom Kingsland said. “From the start of the season to the final practice before the section meet they worked hard and each week saw improvement in their ability and their times. We were all a little nervous and in anticipation for the race. They knew what they needed to do. Both of them ran as we hoped - running season PR's, putting them in great shape to move on. I am really happy for both of them - they put in the work and delivered when they needed to.”
Their high finish led the North Branch boys team to a seventh place finish in the meet, scoring 181 points. They got a third strong score, with fellow senior Aiden Bear finishing in 24th place in 17:25.2. Their next runners, however, didn’t cross the finish line until 64th, 70th, 91st and 100th place.
Chisago Lakes finished in 13th in the 16 team field. Their top finisher was seventh grader Henry Johnson in 46th place. He finished the race in 18:04.5. Next across for the Wildcats was Dru Ellering in 56th place, Grant Koehler in 63rd, Will Nelson in 67th and Dan Istvanovich in 86th.
On the girls side, Chisago Lakes finished in 11th place. They got a top finish from eighth grader Maya Aadland, who came in 27th place with a time of 20:25.0. Ninth grader Leah Dreckman came in 38th with a time of 21:06.4, and junior Christina Brunnette came in 47th. Molly Moberg, Caroline Aili, Anna Johnson and Elsa Leopold rounded out CL’s team that featured zero seniors in the section meet.
North Branch didn’t have much to build on in the girls half of the meet. Freshman Cora Hudella was their top finisher, coming in 26th place with a time of 20:24.8, but they didn’t get another girl across the checkered line until Gail Nelson in 83rd place. Nihart and Stuber will take part in the state meet on Saturday, November 3 at 10 a.m. The race will take place at St. Olaf College in Northfield. Stuber and Nihart will be running in lane 21 with the rest of section seven.