BEMIDJI — Teams didn’t know what to expect heading into the Section 8AA girls cross country meet Friday.
Heading to Bemidji this morning, the weather changed frequently from snow storms to sunshine to cloud skies. The majority of the day consisted of sunshine and colder temperatures.
The section was split into four separate races to align with the Minnesota State High School League’s COVID-19 guidelines.
Tech started the day with a run at 11 a.m. and Sartell and ROCORI ran at 1 p.m. on Friday. Apollo concluded the day with a race at 5 p.m.
The team scores showed ROCORI and Sartell in the top five with placements of third and fourth. Tech and Apollo finished 14th and 15th place.
“We just had the girls look at this as a normal section meet with hopes of possibly advancing to state,” said ROCORI head coach Brad Bauer. “I thought we had a great race today and the girls ran well. It was definitely different, but the girls stayed focused on the race.”
The biggest obstacle for these runners was the condensed version of participants at each start line.
Most of these girls are used to over 100 runners starting at one time and it allows them to pace more with another person during the race. Since each race was with four teams, there’s only 24-28 runners competing at one time.
Sartell’s Ingrid Buiceag-Arama felt prepared no matter what the circumstances were because she’s been running in section meets since seventh grade. The Sabres senior was running her final race on Friday and was hoping to qualify for a sixth straight year to the state meet.
“It’s unbelievable to think six years already went by,” Buiceag-Arama said. “I remember being a seventh and eighth grader just learning about the program and now I’m running my final race. It’s been fun to see how I’ve grown and also see how this team has grown over the years.”
Buiceag-Arama ran a time of 19:34.4, which would’ve qualified her for a state appearance, which puts her in the Sartell record books for most state appearances by a cross country runner.
For her, she was just excited to reach this point in the season because of so many changes to the normal season. This meet made her look back at her six years as a Sabre and it’s been a fun journey for Buiceag-Arama.
“If you would’ve told me as a seventh grader that this would be my path, I wouldn’t have believed you,” Buiceag-Arama said. “I just followed my brother and then it became my passion. I would say a lot of my memories have been from cross country and this team.”
Buiceag-Arama wasn’t the only person that had a strong finish to the season. ROCORI’s Elise Hofer and Laina Viere ran side-by-side the entire race and finished five hundredths of a second between each other to finish 11th and 12th overall.
“It was nice to see our season finish at sections,” Hofer said. “I’m just glad I was able to race one final time with this team.”
Tech’s head coach Tom Stoffel said many of the Tigers had personal bests on Friday, which makes him excited because of the growth on the season as well as their growth during the offseason for the 2021 season.
All four teams’ coaches said that there will be some changes heading into the 2021 season, but these teams have a lot of young talent growing. This makes the coaches excited because it means the future looks to be bright with more personal bests and more runners fighting for a spot in the state meet.
“It’s tough to lose runners like Ingrid because they’ve formed the foundation of this program for so long,” said Sartell head coach Greg Henning. “It’s great to see these younger runners learn from these older runners and pass down those traditions to keep this program strong for years to come.”
“We lose one strong senior, but we have so much young talent coming back,” Stoffel said. “I think this group of girls will build this program for the next few years and I’m excited to see what happens.”
There were two common words said amongst the coaches that described the 2020 season.
Fortunate and blessed.
Apollo head coach Justin Darrow, who is also the head track and field coach, saw his spring athletes lose their season due to COVID-19. He was preparing himself for more bad news in the fall and being able to go through this shortened season healthy and safely, Darrow said they were blessed with this opportunity.
Darrow added there’s a foundation that’s been set by past seniors and this senior class that makes these athletes excited for the cross country. He’s continued to continue adding more people to the program and building the Eagles roster for the fall.
“We weren’t sure what to expect this summer and to have a season and a section meet is amazing,” Darrow said. “I’m so proud of them for their dedication and growth this season.”
Brian Mozey is the high school sports reporter for the St. Cloud Times. Reach him at 320-255-8772 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @BrianMozey.
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