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Patriots finish 8th at state: Young Pequot Lakes squad finishes strong

The Pequot Lakes boys' cross country team finished eighth overall at the Class A state meet on Saturday, Nov. 7. Team members include, front row from left: Max Johnson, Reid Pierzinski and Jacob Tschida. Back row: Tony Fitzer, Marty Fitzer, Cody Huss and Levi Palmer. Photo by Pete Mohs

Pequot Lakes Patriots cross country coach Jeff Brever has fond Class A state high school meet memories as a two-time individual state champion running for Staples-Motley in the late 1990s at the St. Olaf College cross country course in Northfield.

Brever's Patriot boys' cross country squad is now hoping to build their own fond state memories of the present and future after placing eighth among the Class A field of 16 teams on Saturday, Nov. 7. It was an admirable performance for the young runners, who were making the first state appearance in program history since the Patriots were third in both 2007 and 2008.

"Finishing eighth at state is definitely an accomplishment," said Brever, who squad was actually five points from moving up to sixth place. "Everyone has come a long way from last year and have set personal bests along the way. Competing in state is always a goal at the beginning of the year for every athlete, and I'm just happy they were able to accomplish their goals."

Six of the Patriots' top seven finishers at state were juniors or younger. Pequot Lakes was led by Reid Pierzinski's 41st place in 17:12.4 while junior teammate Tony Fitzer was 46th in 17:15.9. The pair of four-year varsity veterans were among the top 25 runners at the first turn.

"Reid and Tony had goals of making the top 50, amd tjey both ran well to accomplish their goals." Brever said. "But I was a little nervous about the start of the race, which is critical because of our team being inexperienced. If you're off on the first 200 (meters) by a few seconds, then that could be a difference of finishing 40th or 150th, and spending a lot of time and effort passing and going around a lot of people.

"If you start off to fast and exert too much energy, you will tire yourself out fast and not perform well. We have been practicing on starts the last two weeks, and as a team we got off to a good start and ran a good race."

Pierzinski said his goal was to start fast.

"We were practicing our starts all week," the sophomore said. "We didn't want to get trapped in the crowd on the first corner. Coach (Brever) taught us how to take the turns (at state) and run a smart race."

The Patriots' senior Levi Palmer was 107th, and edged teammate Max Johnson, who finished 108th. Pequot Lakes' Jacob Tschida was 115th while Cody Huss was 136th and Marty Fitzer 144th.

"We have been working on our speed the last few weeks," Brever said. "And Levi (Palmer) ran his best race of his career breaking the 18-minute mark. Max (Johnson) and Cody (Huss) both finished the race strong. This is an indication of a little inexperience because they should be using more energy during the previous three miles instead of having a full out sprint the last 200 meters."

Johnson, an eighth-grader who ran three junior high meets before moving up to varsity this season, had an admirable effort at the final stretch.

"Coach (Brever) taught me how to keep my endurance, and I was able to pass three people (just before the finish line)," he said.

Because of young runners like Johnson, the Patriots' future looks bright.

"I believe that having the experience of competing at state, and having success, will drive the runners to want more," he said. "We can't look to far ahead, as there are always surprise teams and injuries. Nothing is given, but if we continue to work hard and stay committed to the program then the future looks bright."

Tony Fitzer agrees, and said the Patriots benefitted from extra practice.

"We did some two-a-day practices through August," the junior said. "I knew (the extra work) would pay off. I thought we had a chance (to make state) after a strong finish at Milaca (Mega Meet in September). We had a lot more depth this year. We have a chance to come back (to state)."

Class A team standings: 1-Mora 43, 2-Perham 94 3-Annandale 166, 4-West Central/Evansville 178, 5-Trinity School/Eagan 186, 6-La Cresent 200, 7-Lake City 201, 8-Pequot Lakes 205, 9-Ottertail Central 231, 10-Minnehaha Academy 245, 11-Lac Qui Parle Valley/Dawson-Boyd 245, 12-Glenco/Silver Lake 256, 13-Jordan 262, 14-Ely 288, 15-Greenway-Nashwauk-Keewatin 289, 16-Redwood Valley 326.

Individual champion: 1-Zack Emery (La Cresent) 16:07

Pequot Lakes results: 41-Reid Pierzinski 17:12.4; 46-Tony Fitzer 17:15.9; 107-Levi Palmer 17:53.6; 108-Max Johnson 17:59.1; 115-Jacob Tschida 18:03; 136-Cody Huss 18:22; 144-Marty Fitzer 18:30