Benning wins SEC title
Hastings has a conference champion this year. Last Tuesday, HHS senior Zack Benning won the individual title at the Suburban East Conference cross country meet in Stacy.
He had a time of 15 minutes and 29 seconds on the 5k course.
“It was an incredible performance,” coach John Dewall said. “The meet was highly anticipated. You had a couple big-time guys in that race.”
Benning was in a pack of about eight runners through the first half of the race. At about the two mile mark, Benning picked up the pace and he was followed only by Jacob McDermott of Cretin-Derham Hall. Benning eventually pulled away from even McDermott. Benning ended up winning by 13 seconds.
“I thought that, overall, for Zack, it was the smartest race I’ve seen him run, and the best race I’ve seen him run. There’s no question that he’s on top of his game. It was real, real exciting.”
Dewall has coached the cross country team at Hastings for seemingly forever, and he can’t even remember the last time Hastings had a conference champion.
“I couldn’t, honestly, tell you when that was,” he said. “It was a long, long, long time ago. To have a conference champ, it’s really exciting. To be able to beat those Stillwater boys, that’s always fun to do.”
Benning now has his eyes set on repeating as the section champion, and he’ll get his chance to do so on Thursday in Owatonna. If he can do so, or if he finishes in the top 10, he’ll advance to the state meet again.
“It’ll be exciting to see him at the section meet,” Dewall said.
Hastings is in Section 1AA with 15 other schools. Benning’s main competition figures to be Hunter Bailey of Winona, who is ranked among the top dozen runners in the state. Benning is ranked No. 4. Bailey is No. 9.
“Our goal is to bring home a section championship,” Dewall said. “That’s the goal. Obviously, we want to place all of our kids as high as we can. Hopefully they’ll all have personal bests from the last time we were there.”
Hastings finished ninth out of 10 teams in the meet with 219 points.
Stillwater, as expected, won the boys team meet with 34 points. Mounds View was second and White Bear Lake was third.
“We had a lot of personal bests,” Dewall said. “They’ve all really come on throughout the season. They kicked it in and I thought they did really well.”
Will Caturia placed 49th for Hastings in 17:34.
Kyle Gudmunson was 59th in 17:52.
Nate Holm was 78th in 18:27.
Nick Johnson took 79th in 18:31.
Finley Myers placed 82nd in 18:38.
Bobby Verchota finished 85th in 19:19.
Mike Tappella was 88th in 19:27.
Josh Brown came in 89th in 19:31 and Colby Smith was 91st in 19:51.
The Hastings girls placed 10th out of 10 teams at the meet with 286 points. East Ridge won the meet with 31. Forest Lake was second and Roseville was third.
As always, the meet was very competitive, Dewall said.
“All the girls, their times were really good,” he said. “It’s just that, when you’re running in the SEC, it doesn’t always show up in the results. We’re excited to get down to the section meet and see the improvement from when they raced there last.”
Leading the girls was Michaela Mills, who finished 64th in the 4k race with a time of 16:44.
Abberly Smith was 68th in 17:00.
Quinn Myers took 70th in 17:05.
Ciara Christensen finished 78th in 17:19.
Kailee Harrington placed 82nd in 17:46.
Rachel Peterson came in 83rd with a time of 17:48.
Taylor Engstrom took 88th in 19:05.
The Hastings junior varsity boys were led by Will Briercliffe, who was 44th in 18:25.
Austin Reuter took 97th in 19:32.
Isaiah Gardell was 100th in 19:39.
Brandon Haraldson took 115th in 19:59.
Seth Greengo finished 117th in 20:01.
Victor Lindgren took 147th in 20:46.
Nicholaus Sampson finished 162nd in 21:00.
Ethan Kimmes finished 165th in 21:05.
Also racing for the Raiders were Blake Woolard and Sawyer Karas.
The girls had just one competitor on junior varsity, Cecilia Carlson, who finished in 20:30.