As good as the Mounds View cross country team ran at the state meet, they were way better at the seven-state Nike Heartland Regionals on Sunday.
“We won by 52 points, which is the largest margin in the history of the event,” said coach Ross Fleming.
After nipping Eden Prairie by one point, 86 to 87, for their first state title on Nov. 3, the Mustangs ran away from the field at Sioux Falls, scoring 125 points, followed by Stevens Point, WI, with 177, and Eden Prairie with 188.
The Mustangs repeated as region champions and advanced again to Nike nationals slated for Dec. 7 in Portland, Oregon.
The Sioux Falls course, which is flat, suited the Mustangs better than more rugged, hilly courses, such as the St. Olaf College course for the state meet, Fleming surmised.
“Our guys are fleet and light, and they run better than other teams on a flat course,” he said.
Finn Sokolowski again led the Mustangs, placing 31st overall and 13th in team competition with a time of 15:50.
The squad had a remarkably small gap of 14 seconds between their one through five, after having a 22-second gap at state which was also very impressive.
Alec Nelson’s time was 15:52, Will Sacay 16:01, Matt Miller 16:01 and Elliott McArthur 16:04 for the five counting scores. Santino Preciado finished in 16:11 and Nate Apostle 16:24.
Top-notch teams from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Kansas, and Nebraska competed, along with one from Manitoba. The top division race had 31 teams. Ninety others competed in other races.
The top three individuals were Minnesotans — Nicholas Scheller of Chanhassen in 15:17.8, Oliver Paleen of Highland Park in 15:19.1, and Ryan Kinnane of Andover in 15:19.5. In team standings, Highland Park placed eighth, Buffalo 10th, and Edina 11th.