Wildcats race to the top at Applejack
The Eagan girls cross country team etched in cement the thought of a No. 1 ranking in Class AA after winning the Lakeville Applejack Invitational on Sept. 14. The Wildcats beat several other ranked programs, including Lakeville South, Edina and Forest Lake.
After winning the Dakota Classic on Aug. 31 and the St. Croix Invitational on Sept. 6, the Wildcats haven’t let anyone get ahead of them this season.
“They’re proud of what’s going on and they want to push that much harder,” head coach Lisa Langenhahn said. “We’re keeping a level head. We know everybody is out to get us, but that makes us a better team. They’re such a loving group of kids and that’s a main thing.”
Leading the pack is Danielle Anderson, who placed second at the Applejack. Anderson was about 27 seconds behind Shakopee’s Maria Hauger, a three-time state champion, with a run of 14 minutes, 4.3 seconds. She cut 17 seconds off her time at the Applejack in 2011.
“I feel OK about it,” she said. “I wasn’t feeling great. It was nice to run with Maria and see where I’m at. It’s very mental running against her. She’s really good. It makes me nervous. She definitely pushes me.”
She said she got an idea of what she needs to do to close the gap between her and Hauger and stay ahead of rivals such as Taylor Perkins of Lakeville North, who finished in third place.
“I trained a lot more than previous summers,” Anderson said. “I ran with the 400 (mile) club. I just really wanted to do better this year, my last year.”
Eagan finished second last year at the Applejack behind Lakeville South, which had most of its runners returning this season. But Eagan’s young runners made great strides over the offseason.
“It’s been so nice to be around these girls,” Anderson said. “They all love the sport so much. We didn’t really think about (our ranking coming into the season). We had (Lakeville South) in the back of our minds, but we felt really prepared.”
Junior Raissa Hansen finished in fourth place, about 40 seconds behind Anderson. Sophomores Kelli Praska (eighth), Karina Johnson (11th), Anna Van Wyk (13th), and freshman Olivia Mitchell (24th) along with senior Elizabeth Frick (29th) have helped the Wildcats become the team to beat in Minnesota.
Praska cut 34 seconds and Johnson 37 seconds off their times at last year’s Applejack, and Hansen cut more than 1:10 off the time she ran at the state meet last season.
“Raissa is really coming on strong,” Langenhahn said.
The younger girls have been trying to keep up with Anderson in practice, which has only made them better.
“I think it’s a chase mentality,” Langenhahn said. “In practice they’re friendly competitors. They all want to make each other better.”
The Wildcats will see several more elite programs at the Eagle Invitational at Apple Valley on Saturday before running at the Roy Griak Invitational at the University of Minnesota on Sept. 29.