COLERAINE — Entering Thursday’s G/N-K Cross Country Invitational, Geno Uhrbom had just one goal.
Uhrbom, a junior with the Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin (G/N-K) boys cross country team, wanted to post the fastest Class A time in the state of Minnesota so far this season, which was 15 minutes and 44 seconds for 5,000 meters. For most young high school athletes, that goal would be formidable to reach.
But not for Uhrbom, who is the defending Minnesota Class A state champion in cross country and who achieved the Triple Crown in high school distance running as a sophomore by also capturing the 1,600 and 3,200-meter runs at the state Class A track and field meet last spring.
Uhrbom went out and forged a large lead early and he held it for the rest of the race as he met his goal of posting the fastest Class A time in the state so far this fall by winning with a time of 15:41. Freshman Cameron Stocke of Virginia was a distant second in 16:13 while Greg Peterson of the Titans finished third in 17:06.
“I came in here wanting to take that time (15:44) down and put my name up there,” Uhrbom said. “It might sound cocky but it is my competitive side and it is what I want to do.
“Coming into the race I was feeling really good because I took a lot of time warming up to make my legs feel good. So, it was good.”
Uhrbom said his plan was to run at Stocke’s heels for a portion of the race but he felt the pace was too slow so he decided to take the lead and push the pace.
“I came to the mile mark at about 4:45 which is cooking,” he said. “Usually when you run that fast of a time up here it burns a couple people and then you try to slow down a couple seconds for the second mile but not too much.
“Then you pick it up toward the end of that second mile and you try and hold it. I then kick it in for the third mile.”
Uhrbom said he is satisfied at where he is at this portion in the season.
“I’m faster than last year already and I feel like it, too,” he smiled.
G/N-K also ran away with the boys team title as it totaled 44 points. Brainerd was second with 90 while Proctor placed third with 102. Grand Rapids finished sixth with 186.
Besides Uhrbom and Peterson, other Titan runners were Spencer Engel, sixth in 17:24, Daniel Olson, 16th in 17:45, Connor Thoennes, 20th in 18:19, Michael Butterfield, 24th in 18:32, and Weston Marx, 34th in 19:01.
Sam Stertz was Grand Rapids’ top finisher as he was 10th in 17:37. He was followed by teammates Austin Hanson, 14th in 17:44, Lucas Berard, 53rd in 20:14, Noah Cagle, 57th in 20:22, Caleb Rychart, 58th in 20:26, and Bryce Hayes, 62nd in 20:55.
Taran Howard of Deer River/Northland was 15th in 17:44.
Rachel Miesbauer, assistant coach for the Thunderhawks, said there were some exciting performances from Grand Rapids athletes for both the boys and girls.
“This is always a telling meet at the beginning of the year to see where the kids are and I think there were some kids who were surprised and then there were some kids that dug down and realized they have some work to do.”
Miesbauer said she is excited to see what the Thunderhawks athletes can do in the future and how far they can go. She said Sam Stertz and Austin Hanson ran well for the boys team while she said the girls team ran in a really good pack.
“I think that what we need to work on for the girls is to get that pack together and move up more,” she said. “I think this next month is pretty crucial as we are going to see some really good competition. But at the same time, we are hitting the miles a lot harder and doing some speed workouts.”
Hibbing won the girls team championship in close fashion as it had 76 points with Brainerd second with 94. Mesabi East was third with 114. G/N-K was fifth with 140 and Grand Rapids placed seventh with 151.
Ava Hill of Mesabi East won the race in a time of 18:57. Keegan Mcaullife of Duluth Marshall was second in 19:14 and Bridget Collins of Brainerd was third in 20:31.
Salmna Bonkhana was Grand Rapids’ top runner as she finished in a time of 21:20. She was followed by teammates Alexis Lane, 31st in 23:02, Sanny Gangi, 35th in 23:25, Samantha Baratto, 43rd in 24:27, Jayden Hanson, 46th in 24:33, Alayna King, 51st in 25:21, and Jaide Sondrol, 59th in 26:10.
G/N-K’s top runners were Baylie Norris, 17th in 21:44, Kaitlin Olson, 18th in 21:51, and Carlee Plackner, 25th in 22:29.
Boys Middle School
Jonathan Schafbach of Deer River won the middle school boys race covering 2,500 meters. The eighth grader won in a time of 8:38.40. Darian Morgart of McGregor was second in 9:02.
Grand Rapids won the team title with 48 points. South Ridge was second with 70.
Mason Sovoda was Grand Rapids’ top runner as he was fourth in 9:16. Other top finishers were Seth Barton, seventh in 9:20, Nick Casper, ninth in 9:21, and Micah Lane, 10th in 9:29.
Riley Koran was the top G/N-K runner as he was 20th in 9:49.
Junior Varsity Boys
Cristian Litra of Brainerd won the boys junior varsity race which covered 5,000 meters in a time of 18:42. Levi Danielson of G/N-K was second in 19:09 while Steven Selisker of Brainerd was third in 19:21. Cade Westphal of G/N-K was sixth in 19:53, and Coleman Groshong of G/N-K was 10th in 20:23.
Joe Louis was Grand Rapids’ top runner as he was 20th in 21:01.
Middle School Girls
Lizzy Harnell of Proctor was first in the 2,500-meter race in a time of 9:06. Della Bettendorf of Proctor was second in 9:12 and Addison Burckhardt of South Ridge was third in 9:33.
Ella Karkela was Grand Rapids’ top runner as she was fourth in 9:567. Ellen Sween of the Thunderhawks was 10th in 10:23 while teammate Ryleigh Sherlock was 11th in 10:28.
Junior Varsity Girls
Katelyn Kennedy of Brainerd won the girls junior varsity race in a time of 23:52. Emily Bastian of Brainerd was second in 23:53 and Hannah Ronning of Mesabi East was third in 24:24.