WADENA — The Wadena-Deer Creek cross country girl’s team finished first place in the Park Region Conference meet Tuesday, Oct. 19, finishing with 40 points, ahead of second place United North Central. This is the third consecutive conference win for the girls in the end of regular season conference meet, and one that had plenty of memorable moments.

Girl’s

In the girl’s 5k, freshman Amber Collins ran her personal best with a time of 21:09 behind first place Angalie Aho of UNC. Collins got ahead of Aho halfway through the race, before Aho turned the gears up and was over 200 yards ahead of Collins at the finish line.

Just 30 seconds behind Collins were three of her teammates, who finished 6th, 7th, and 8th — eighth grader Britta Sweeney, senior Johanna Brunsburg and Lydia Oldakowski respectively.

Oldakowski was described by Coach Michael Brunsberg as their “secret weapon.”

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“This season… we sensed (Oldakowski) was going to emerge from last year’s injury with some terrific ability and guts… and she did.”

The Wolverines finished with six girls in the top 10, an impressive feat but one that cemented the team’s performance all year.

Boys

The boy’s 5k race started with junior Bjorn Brunsberg in front, as a sea of blue and black emerged from the hill. As the race continued, Lane Hoefs and Bjorn were running in unison from head to toe. Hoef and Brunsberg crossed the finish line at 18:05 and 18:06.

Wolverine senior Eric Malone finished the 5k race Tuesday, Oct. 19.
Aaron Young/Pioneer Journal
Wolverine senior Eric Malone finished the 5k race Tuesday, Oct. 19. Aaron Young/Pioneer Journal

Coach Brunsberg acknowledged Hoefs' and Brunsburg’s effort and performance. The boy’s are definitely role models for the team.

“Bjorn and Lane are both juniors — our biggest class of CC runners at 7. Honestly, in the true sense of teamwork, our collection of seniors and juniors stick together to make the season fun and focused.”

That connection translates to the race, as teamwork during practice turns into results that reflect back on the team.

“Emerging from that, one thing that is visible for the entire team is how Lane and Bjorn both know how to compete at the end of a race — pushing for every half-second of advantage in crossing the line.”

Junior Phillip Ross finished just inside the top 15 with a time of 19:26. Ross was another breakout runner for the Wolverines.

“Phillip Ross had shown a steady improvement progression curve over the years… a trend that was going to put him in the mix of guys running sub-20 times.”

Cooper Damlo (left) finishes his race Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021, at the Whitetail Run Golf Course in Wadena.
Aaron Young/Pioneer Journal
Cooper Damlo (left) finishes his race Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021, at the Whitetail Run Golf Course in Wadena. Aaron Young/Pioneer Journal

The boy’s would place fourth in the run, racking up 116 points.

As a team there were 7 All-Conference Champions, four girls and three boys. They include Amber Collins, Britta Sweeney, Johanna Brunsberg and Lydia Oldakowski for the girls and Lane Hoefs, Bjorn Brunsberg and Phillip Ross for the boys. Collins, Marelyn Gallant and Ella Stroeing all had season best finishes.

How does the team keep their momentum going throughout the year without running out of steam?

That begins with attitude and attendance, along with accountability.

“Teammates being able to count on each other to be in the moment and help each other out in meeting the challenge of our daily workouts. And, the workouts we offer are of a high standard of quality — largely because our "CC Coaches Hall of Fame" assistant coach, Terry Olson, is a master at working out a Plan B or Plan C when the weather doesn't cooperate, etc.”

Even with the players' consistency, every team’s success relies on a message and vision.

Coach Brunsberg said, ”Our vision remains to "experience and share the joy of running," and it's a privilege to be in the presence of this very much alive ideal.”

As the season winds down and sections are on the horizon, W-DC has a bright future ahead of them. Despite four athletes graduating, the team’s passion for running and drive to accomplish goals brings forth not only more success, but more awareness to the program.

“Graduation is just a "fact of life"! Hopefully, next year's returning squad will spread a positive word about our program that will attract the next generation of Wolverine harriers. And, that's not necessarily limited to the youth of junior high runners. Over the years, we've benefited from the addition of senior high athletes who are curious about distance running and want to give it a try ... and find some success with it!”

The Wadena-Deer Creek Wolverines will arrive at Minnewaska on October 29 for Section 6A Finals looking to continue their winning ways.

W-DC boys results:
3-Lane Hoefs 18:05.6, 4-Bjorn Brunsberg 18:06.1, 14-Phillip Ross 19:26.5, 47-Eric Malone 22:35.4, 48-Cooper Damlo 22:55.5, 52-Trevin Kern 23:25.7, 72-Grant Nelson 30:39.8
W-DC girls results:
2-Amber Collins 21:09.9, 6-Britta Sweeney 21:40.5, 7-Johanna Brunsberg 21:51.0, 8-Lydia Oldakowski 22:01.7, 17-Ally Pavek 23:42.2, 18-Karly Haverkamp 23:43.5, 20-Emma Reis 24:05.3