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Voyageur's Best Sports of 2002

Alexa Grones and Samantha Smith

They’re goin’ to STATE
Samantha Smith and Alexa Grones advance to state
by John Grones | October 29, 2002

Two outstanding performances, by Samantha Smith and Alexa Grones, took place at this year’s Minnesota Section 7A Cross Country meet, held at Willowbrook Golf Course near Floodwood. As a result, both runners will represent Cromwell-Wright at the state meet to be held Sat., Nov. 2, at St. Olaf College in Northfield.

Samantha, who hs been ranked # 9 the entire season in the state polls, shot out to an early lead that she never relinquished, as she cruised to a first place finish. It was before the race that Samantha determined that she would go out and lead, with a ‘come-and-catch-me’ mentality. In two prior races, she had tried to run shoulder-to-shoulder with her rival, Liz Palkie. Both times, Liz beat her to the finish.

Not this time.

“I knew she (Liz Palkie) was hurt and might not do as well,” said Samantha. “If I would have stayed back, the Hermantown girl (Melissa Engelmeier) would have taken off.”

Coach Pete Koenig was elated. “”I am so proud, “ he said. “I was so excited to see her run so strong and dominating!”

The stategy paid off for Samantha and she became the first runner in Cromwell history to become the Minnesota Section 7A champion, and the second runner in Cromwell history to reach the state meet three consecutive years. As a sophomore, she has two more years of running at the high school level. The only other runner to qualify for state three straight years was Dennis Heaser in 1997, 1998 and 1999. Liz Palkie went to state for Cromwell in 1999 and has qualified three straight years at Carlton-Wrenshall.

Also advancing to the state meet is Alexa Grones. Alexa advances for the first time and is also a sophomore runner at Cromwell. According to coach Koenig, Alexa had a chance to go to state since day one. “I knew what she did in track and I knew she was a competitor,” he said.

Alexa’s goal was to place in the top ten and she reached it with a ninth place finish. Near the end of the race, it appeared as if the final two places were up for grabs, but Alexa and Kristie Peterson from Carlton-Wrenshall emerged from the pack and sprinted to the finish for the final two spots.

Sam and Alexa will now spend the week preparing for their final race of the season. The practice plan is for maintaining the speed and endurance that the athletes trained for all season. On Fri., the team will travel to Northfield where they will get some rest and prepare to run a 10:00 a.m.

Other individual finishes for Cromwell included: Girls – Michelle Allen, 57; Selena Smith, 75 and Heidi Smith, 78. In the boys competition Kyle Smith was the top boys runner. He placed 45th, followed by Vincent Green, 61; Robert Larson, 74 and Curtis Hakala, 82.

The McGregor boys were lead by Andy Hadrich, 26; Matt Eidem, 69; Mychal Hadrich 73; and Andy Carlstrom, 80.

This article first appeared in the October 29, 2002 issue of the Voyageur Press.