PRINCETON — Two members of the Grand Rapids High School boys cross country team earned state berths by virtue of their finishes in the Section 7AA Cross Country Meet which was conducted Thursday in Princeton.

Grand Rapids coach Steve Kohorst said it was a good day for the Thunderhawks as 12 of the 14 runners for the boys and girls teams posted personal bests during the section meet.

“That’s where you want to end up at the end of the year, running your best at the end of the year when it really counts,” Kohorst explained.

Following are results of the meet:


Senior Sam Stertz placed 10th in the 5,000-meter race in a time of 16:48 to earn a state berth. His teammate, junior Austin Hanson, also claimed a state berth as he finished 13th in a time of 16:59.

“It was a great day,” said Grand Rapids coach Steve Kohorst. “We had two runners qualify for state the team finished seventh overall which was right in the middle, so that was OK.”

Unfortunately for the Grand Rapids runners, the state meet has been canceled due to the pandemic.

Daniel Vanacker, a junior from Forest Lake, won the race in a time of 16:05. Cameron Heppner of Andover was second in 16:18 while Layton Kade of Big Lake placed third in 16:20.

Besides Stertz and Hanson, other Grand Rapids runners were sophomore Matej Cervenka, 30th in 17:49, senior Josh Timm, 48th in 18:42, freshman Mason Sovoda, 68th in 19:26, senior Landon Tubbs, 72nd in 19:29, and freshman Nick Casper, 75th in 19:42.

Andover won the team title with 45 points. Duluth East was second with 86 while Forest Lake placed third with 101.

Grand Rapids placed seventh among 15 teams with a score of 169.


The young Thunderhawk girls team placed seventh out of 14 schools with a score of 213. Andover won the team title with 40 followed by Duluth East, 65, and Forest Lake, 67.

“The girls were seventh and that is good,” said Kohorst. “If these girls come back – and that is always wishful thinking – we could have the same team for the next two years.”

Norah Hushagen, an eighth grader from Forest Lake, won the 5,000-meter race in a time of 18:07. Senior Claire Beckman of Andover was second in 18:57 while senior Alyssa Gerth of Andover was third in 19:14.

Freshman Ella Karkela was the top Thunderhawk runner as she was 31st in 21:17. She was followed by teammates freshman Whitney Sylvester, 38th in 21:31, sophomore Sanny Gangi, 44th in 21:43, eighth grader Ryleigh Sherlock, 52nd in 22:05, freshman Emily Walters, 53rd in 22:15, freshman Claire Louis, 69th in 23:09, and freshman Ella Downing, 70th in 23:10.

Kohorst said cross country will add another class next year which he said is big for Grand Rapids. He said the Thunderhawks will likely stay in Class AA while the big schools will move up into the highest class.

“We have been buffaloed for the past 10 years because Forest Lake, Elk River, Andover, all these teams have numbers that we just can’t compete with. So next year I optimistic about making it to state because both the boys and girls teams have a lot of young girls.”


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