For the first time in school history, the first runner across the finish line at the Minnesota State High School League’s State Championship race bore a STMA jersey. Senior Ali Weimer earned a commanding first place at last Saturday’s event at St. Olaf College, with a time of 17.42.81. The second place runner finished nearly a full 15 seconds later.
“It felt great,” Weimer said. “It has always been a goal of mine to win an individual state cross country championship. I knew this was my last chance of attaining my goal, so I worked hard all season. I was lucky it paid off, and our team did awesome as well.”
Weimer has placed among the top 10 finishers at every state meet going back to her 8th grade season, and coach Matthew Venaas said her fastest 5K finish of the season, 17.17 at the conference championship meet, was the fastest in the state by a girl in any class this year.
Weimer said going to state each year has been a highlight for her, especially when the girls team took first at state three years ago.
“I made a lot of memories that won’t be forgotten,” she said. “I feel grateful to have had great coaches to help me meet my goals, and a great support system.”
On the boys’ side, senior Caden Nordberg finished in 9th place out of 160 AAA boys runners, with a personal best time of 15.46.98. He earned All-State Honors for his finish, which was the fourth fastest 5K time in STMA school history. Nordberg was the sole male state qualifier for the Knights, as the boys didn’t place high enough at the section finals to earn a team spot at state.
Nordberg said he was pleased with his state meet performance and grateful for the chance to run with many of the state’s fastest runners. Though he said he always has a drive to improve, he’s excited to channel that into next spring’s track season.
“My cross country career at STMA High School will forever be one of my favorite chapters in my book,” Nordberg said. “The STMA way is just something you have to experience, and I am so blessed to be able to grow up with these guys.”
Nordberg fought through a significant injury last year, which left him unable to compete during his junior cross country season. He cut 40 seconds off his sophomore season’s PR during senior year.
“It was worth every early morning, late night, sore muscle, and every step I took,” he said.
Both Nordberg and Weimer have Division I running plans in their future next year. Weimer will be running cross country and track at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, while Nordberg is still firming up plans.
The STMA girls earned a fourth place finish overall out of 16 teams in the AAA race. Junior Natalie Cocking finished second for the Knights in 33rd place, with a time of 19.06. Junior Avery O’Rourke followed closely behind in 37th place with a time of 19.12. Junior Emma Windingland finished 61st with a time of 19.49, and sophomore Erin Pipp rounded out the team’s scoring members with a time of 21.04. Keagan Burke and Becca Immer also represented the Knights at state.
“We did an excellent job showing the depth of our team with a 4th place finish with a tight stack of teams shortly behind us,” Venaas said. “With six of our seven returning into next season, Saturday was an opportunity to run fast and gain some invaluable experience.”