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Dragon Runners Look to Continue Conference Dominance

The fall sports season is underway with many teams starting practice this week! The Pine City Cross Country teams are no stranger to success. The boys have won the Great River Conference 5 years in a row and the girls have won it 8 in row. They have made several state appearances and had many individuals see State Tournament success. Head coach Jared Clementson is expecting another successful season from both the girls and boys runners.

Read what he has to say about his team below:

What are you most excited for this year?

I am excited to get back to working with the kids. It is very rewarding to work with kids who are hardworking and goal orientated. I am excited to see everyone’s growth throughout the season as a runner and as a person.

How is the roster shaping up? Do you have a lot of new players? Are you returning a lot of players? Younger? Older? Etc.

We have about 30 boys out (which has been typical the past few years), but our girls numbers took a dip down to about 10 after having 20+ the past few years.

We are returning 8 of our top 10 boys from last year. On the girls side, we are returning 6 of our top 10. There is a good mix on the boys side. On the girls side, we are on the older side. We are hoping to get some younger girls to join.

Who are a couple athletes that will stand out?

On the boys side, Senior Tommy Ryan and Junior Nate Webster stand out the most. Both are returning from great seasons last year where Tommy was the GRC champion and made it to State where he placed 34th. Nate placed third at the GRC and just missed State by a few spots. They are both in much better shape then last year and should be among the top in Section 5A. Seniors TJ Rank and Jake Adams are also top returners who will look to push themselves and their teammates to improve throughout the season.

On the girls side, Junior Alaina Steele stands above the rest. Last year she set our school record and was the GRC champion by well over a minute. She missed out at a bid to State last year, but will be looking to earn a spot this year. She is coming off of the Track season where she placed 5th at State in the 800m.

Junior Grace Grubbs and Senior Alexis Thieman placed third and fifth in the Conference and will be looking to be up with Alaina toward the top again this year.

Any upcoming milestones for your team?

Our girls team has won the GRC the past 8 years straight and the boys have won the past 5 years. Even though our girls team is smaller than years past, we are still aiming to extend those streaks to 9 and 6 respectively.

What are your goals?

As is every year, our biggest team goal is to win the Great River Conference Championship. Our boys team also has a goal of being competitive in the Section and push for one of the two State qualifying spots.

At this time, we have three State caliber athletes (Tommy, Nate, and Alaina) that have goals of making the trip down to St. Olaf for the State meet.

Another goal of mine is to teach these student-athletes to be kind, helpful, healthy, motivated, and goal-oriented people throughout their lives.

Favorite upcoming games, matches, or meets?

Some of our favorite regular season meets are our home meet (Pine City Invite), the Milaca Mega Meet and Swain (up in Duluth). The Milaca Mega and Swain are very large meets with great competition.

Anything else you want people to know about your team?

We encourage all kids to give Cross Country a try. Whether you are among the fastest in the state or can only run for short distances, you will have a great experience and learn a lot about yourself and how to work to improve. Everyone has the ability to better themselves throughout the season and celebrate with others when those personal victories happen.

Photo credit to Jenna Steele

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