unity College, the Cottage Grove boys’ cross country team squeaked out a second-place finish at the Sky-Em district meet to qualify for the state cross country meet this weekend.
The Lions finished in second place with 53 points just edging out Elmira who finished in third with 55 points. Sisters won the meet with 40 points.
The Falcons and Lions were back and forth all race. After one mile, Elmira had all five of their top runners in the top 15 and were, for the moment, ahead of Cottage Grove in points. As the race continued, the Lions picked off some runners and ended up finishing with four runners in the top 10 to secure a second-place finish and qualify for the state meet. Cottage Grove’s Konrad Raum was the first finisher for the team in fourth place.
“I did better than I thought I would to be honest. Placement wise I figured around here but time wise, I was thinking about 17:20,” said Raum who finished with a time of 16:43 and attributed the fast time that tied his personal best to the quick pace of the lead runners.
“I was planning on pacing myself for a 5:30 for my first mile and I went 5:11 and I was like, I kind of feel good so I kept going at it,” he said.
In a close race where every point mattered, there was no bigger moment than the battle behind Raum for fifth place between Cottage Grove’s Jimmy Talley and Elmira’s Paul Ossowski.
Virtually tied as the runners entered the track for the final 300 meters of the race, it was Ossowski who took the slight edge with 50 meters to go. But it was Talley’s surge in the final 10 meters that edged out Ossowski at the line by six tenths of a second to claim fifth place and secure the last automatic qualifying position for the state meet.
“We were battling the entire race,” said Talley on the near photo finish. “I had never made it to state by myself before, I’d only made it to state because of my team.”
Following Talley, was Cottage Grove’s Jesse Ellingworth in ninth and Paesen Timm in 10th place. At this point, the Lions were the only team with four runners in and with points coming from the first five runners, it became a waiting game.
Sisters claimed their title as their fourth and fifth runners finished 13th and 15th respectively and the battle for second intensified.
Elmira, who’s first finisher was Ossowski, then had finishers in 7th, 11th, 14th and 17th. With their top five in before Cottage Grove’s it meant that the Lions fifth runner would need to finish in 26th or better for Cottage Grove to beat Elmira. And in 25th place, Cottage Grove’s Konnor Owens finished in a time of 18:48 that punched their ticket to the state meet.
While the intensity swelled at the finish line, Cottage Grove coach Jim Settelmeyer remained calm and seemingly uninterested in where the team finished as long as they performed as best they could.
As coaches of the other teams hurriedly jotted down times and placements to see where their teams finished, Settelmeyer took pictures and cheered on his team. He noted that he found out the scores “when the scores were out. I don’t track numbers. I know [the team] is doing what they can do. These guys are big meet runners. They’ve been getting PRs at the state and district meet. [The courses] aren’t that fast of courses so how can you be sad about that.”
The team will race at the state meet on Saturday Nov. 4 at 11:50 a.m.