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Smith finishes career at state cross country meet

Makenzie Smith (second from left) pushes her way to the finish line at the state cross country meet Saturday. Photo by Rand Middleton/West Central Tribune

Senior Makenzie Smith of Morris Area/Chokio-Alberta finished her outstanding prep career by placing 31st at the state meet Saturday. Smith finished with a time of 15:32.

The cross country state meet is a season-ending celebration as much as an athletic event.

The competitors from upwards of 200 high schools, their coaches, family, friends and loyal fans gather on the west edge of Northfield to close the fall running season. In no other sport do fans cheer as loud for the 175th finisher in each race as for the leaders.

Nor in any sport in the Minnesota State High School League's broad menu of state championships do waves of spectators and shuffling media burn as many calories to catch glimpses of their favorite runners on the sprawling playing fields of St. Olaf College.

It was a fast track Saturday. The course was dry. The temp stayed in the low 40s (there were a few flakes during the Class A boys' 10 a.m. race) but the air was calm and an altogether pleasant day for both runners and the thousands of spectators.

The highlight of the four races saw senior Maria Hauger of Shakopee break the all-time state meet record with a time of 13:42. It was her fourth straight win, which is one short of the state record held by Carrie Tollefson of Dawson, who won three Class A and two AA championships running for Dawson-Boyd/LQPV from 1990 to 1994.

Esko took the girls' trophy with the Annandale Cardinals in second.

Perham won the boys team title with plenty to spare by placing five runners in the top 12 and defeating runner-up St. Cloud Cathedral 37-72.