Last Tuesday at the Hudson Cross Country Invite, the Forest Lake boys finished second out of nine teams.
The home team, a cross country powerhouse, grabbed first with an average time of 17:24 in the 5K while the Rangers fell just behind with an average 17:38. Forest Lake’s spread was closer than the first place team, however, at just 1:46.
Forest Lake senior Jacob Jankowski had another strong showing, placing third with a 16:28 race. Three other Ranger runners finished in the top 20: senior Jack Ebel placed 10th with a time of 17:42, ninth-grader Tommy Babcock came in a spot and a second later at 17:43, while sophomore Leo Hipp took 15th with a time of 18:03.
“They ran really well, and that was very pleasing to see,” head coach Deno Johnson said. “They were ahead of where last year’s team was, and they made it to state, so all signs and indicators for us look really good.”
Although the Rangers came into the Hudson race as defending champs, Johnson pointed out that Hudson’s top runner and first-place finisher, senior Ryan Kromer, took fourth place at the Wisconsin Cross Country State Championships last year, and Hudson in general looks strong on paper. Meanwhile, Jankowski, is about 30 seconds behind the pace of the No. 1 runner in Minnesota’s Class 2A.
“His [Jake] turnout has just been outstanding,” Johnson said. “If we can just keep him healthy, we’re headed for good things there.”
Johnson said Jankowski has high hopes for the Roy Griak Invitational this year, which is coming up next for both the Forest Lake boys and girls. Jankowski placed 57th out of the 472 varsity participants at the race last year, which is held at the University of Minnesota.
Johnson was quick to point out the importance of the Rangers as a team compared to any indiviual runner, however.
This Saturday’s competition includes runners from schools all over the nation, and Johnson calls it Forest Lake’s best and biggest competition of the year. The Rangers will race in the gold division, which starts at 2 p.m.