Cross-Country: Strong returning pack and determined youth return to running

The Wolverines return 14 that played a role in a strong showing last season. They open the season at 9 a.m., Saturday, Aug. 28 with a race in Perham.

Cross Country runners take to the street in Wadena during a warm up run in the first week of practice on Wednesday, Aug. 18. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal

The Wolverines will head in different directions this season of cross-country as they are now in Section 6A. The change in scenery shouldn't change much about the groups' ability to perform well in the region, as they return a strong core group.

Head Coach Michael Brunsberg has been involved in the sport for 21 years and welcomes back six boys and eight girls from last year's squad. The returning boys include senior Eric Malone; juniors Bjorn Brunsberg, Lane Hoefs and Phillip Ross; and eighth graders Grant Nelson and Trevin Kern. Newcomer boys include eighth grader Owen Anderson; and seventh graders Miles Self and Cooper Damlo.

The girls return a slightly larger group that contains much of the ingredients that helped them become two-time returning Park Region Conference champs. They include: seniors Johanna Brunsberg and Emma Ries; junior Ally Pavek; sophomore Macey Goeden; freshmen Amber Collins and Megan Hamelau and eighth graders Lydia Oldakowski and Britta Sweeney. A strong group of newcomers join the girls including: Madelyn Gallant (11), Ellie Hale (11), Ashlyn Koone (10), Leah Osberg (9), Cambrie Geiger (8), McKenna Brauch (7), Brielle Kern (7), Chloe Wehre (7).

The girls lost great assets with Kira Sweeney and Emma Mehl graduating in the spring. Sweeney was a state qualifier and Mehl a top five runner. Even so, Brunsberg looks to the girls to again have a good showing in the region, if they can stay healthy. Individually, Amber Collins was a state qualifier in Section 8A last season. Amber has the ability and work ethic to make an excellent showing in the new section. Ally Pavek likely would have been one of the great contributors also last year but suffered an injury that kept her out until this season.

The boys were fifth in the conference in 2020 (out of 9)—which was a strong placing for a young squad, Brunsberg said. The core group is still intact and will look to build upon that experience and improve their times and places this year.


Brunsberg said the group has an informal cross-country ski club in the winter and a wet-shoe club in the summer that work to help the kids stay in shape. Brunsberg said he doesn't demand a lot from the kids, he knows they need to have an internal motivation to push themselves for long distance running. Thankfully the group has been blessed with some very motivated runners over the years.

In the Park Region Conference, the top boys teams will likely include Otter Tail Central, Ashby-Brandon-Evansville, Parkers Prairie and Bertha-Hewitt. The top girls teams could include WDC, Otter Tail Central and United North Central.

Brunsberg is joined by 34-year-coach Terry Olson and both are glad to be working with a positive group of runners that seem eager to learn and improve. Brunsberg said he is looking forward to running some new courses this year and a return to some normalcy that is so far planned for the 2021 season.

The group has enough runners at this point for varsity, junior varsity and junior high races among the girls. If they can stay healthy and grow in their depth, they like others in Section 6A should be strong as they race through the season ahead.

The Wolverines host two meets this season including the conference race on Oct. 19 at the Whitetail Run Golf Course.

WDC Cross Country roster 2021


12 Eric Malone

11 Bjorn Brunsberg


11 Lane Hoefs

11 Phillip Ross

8 Owen Anderson

8 Trevin Kern

8 Grant Nelson

7 Cooper Damlo

7 Miles Self



12 Johanna Brunsberg

12 Kylee Collins *manager

12 Emma Ries

12 Mikayla Varela

11 Madelyn Gallant

11 Ellie Hale

11 Ally Pavek

11 Ella Stroeing


10 Macey Goeden

10 Ashlyn Koone

9 Amber Collins

9 Megan Hamelau

9 Leah Osberg

9 Jennifer Varela

8 Cambrie Geiger

8 Lydia Oldakowski


8 Britta Sweeney

7 McKenna Brauch

7 Karly Haverkamp

7 Brielle Kern

7 Chloe Wehre

Boys and Girls Varsity Schedule

  • Saturday, Aug. 28: 9 a.m. @ Perham
  • Thursday, Sept. 2: 10 a.m. @ New York Mills
  • Tuesday, Sept. 7: 4:30 p.m. @ home vs. multiple schools
  • Thursday, Sep 16: 4 p.m. @ Ada Borup
  • Tuesday, Sept. 21: 4:30 p.m. @ Melrose
  • Saturday, Sept. 25: 10 a.m. @ Milaca
  • Thursday, Sept. 30: TBD @ St. John's Prep
  • Thursday, Oct. 7: 4 p.m. @ Perham
  • Tuesday, Oct. 12: 4 p.m. @ Benson
  • Tuesday, Oct. 19: 4 p.m. Conference Race @ home

Michael Johnson is the news editor for Agweek. He lives in rural Deer Creek, Minn., where he is starting to homestead with his two children and wife.
You can reach Michael at or 218-640-2312.
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