Lions boys finish 8th, girls take 7th at XC state championships

November 10 - Following a league title for the boys and a girls second place finish in league, the Cottage Grove cross country team wrapped up their season at state on Saturday, Nov. 5. The Lions boys made history by having two individual runners place in the top 10, while also finishing in the top 10 in the first back-to-back seasons at state since 1968-69 with their eighth-place finish. Their female teammates also came into the weekend ranked outside the top 10 but put together a strong finish to finish seventh overall which is the second-best finish in school history.

“Carter (Bengtson) and Jaden (Owens) were phenomenal,” said Head Coach Ricky Knutson. “Those were about best case scenario finishes for those two guys. I mean, they go into the race as the eighth and ninth fastest times in the state, and for them to come out third and sixth, they both beat some quality runners yesterday to turn in those spots.”

Senior J. Owens (16:16) finished third overall and was the first to cross the line for the Lions and Bengtson (16:33) was the first sophomore to finish and ended his race with a sixth-place finish. The other Cottage Grove boys scorers included Kobi Prenevost (18:22), Brennen Murphy (18:37) and Wyatt Pepiot (18:54).

The Lady Lions had been led by a steady young core all season with Saturday being no different. Sophomores Allison Palluck (21:13) and Bella Keating (21:17) both finished inside the top 30. The rest of the Lady Lions scorers were all freshmen and included Ella Cardwell (22:29), Jordynn Owens (22:30) and Zoey Knutson (23:27).

“Our girls probably ran their best races of the year,” said Knutson. “Four out of the five ran personal bests and Allison was only a few seconds off of hers. We had kind of been waiting all year for the girls to be able to race together, and when it came down to it, on the biggest stage, they really pulled together and each girl did their part. It was pretty cool.”

Looking ahead to next season, the varsity girls will return their full complement of runners that competed at the state meet. Meanwhile, the returning boys will have some big shoes to fill as the Lions will look to replace four seniors from the varsity squad.

“We're going to keep focusing on establishing a culture,” said Knutson. “We had a pretty strong group of freshmen boys this year and the next two years we have a wave of some girls that could be coming up that could be pretty exciting. We just want to keep building that culture and building up our kids to become varsity athletes.”