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Cross country: Hyytinen, Peterson state-bound

Farmington’s Lauren Peterson (right) hangs with the leaders during last Thursday’s Section 1AA Championships in Owatonna.

Two Farmington runners found themselves among the leaders during last Thursday’s Section 1AA Championships.

For one, it was expected. For the other, it was anything but.Farmington’s Lauren Peterson and Justin Hyytinen qualified for Saturday’s state meet.

Junior Justin Hyytinen’s plan was to get out to a fast start and stay with defending boys champion Zack Benning. He did just that, and placed second in the section for the second year in a row with a personal-best time on the 5,000-meter Brooktree Golf Course layout in Owatonna.

Seventh-grader Lauren Peterson didn’t know what to expect in her first career section meet. A 14th-place finisher a week earlier at the Missota Conference Championships, Peterson had alternated between serving as the Tigers’ No. 1 and No. 2 runner during the season. But at the section meet she caught an early surge of adrenaline and found herself running in second place during the first half of the race. Peterson was able to maintain a strong pace in the later stages of the 4,000-meter race and finish sixth to qualify for this weekend’s Class 2A state meet at St. Olaf College in Northfield.

Peterson’s time of 14 minutes, 52 seconds, broke boys coach Lisa Lippold’s school record on the Owatonna course.

“I really didn’t expect to get that high up, but I gave it all I had and that’s where I ended up. It was a faster pace than usual at the beginning, and I kind of slowed down toward the end, but I felt like I kept a good pace,” Peterson said. “The course was pretty flat, so it felt a lot easier.”

Peterson ran competitively for the first time just two years ago in races at Akin Road Elementary. She started running with her dad, doing workouts on her own and getting together with the Farmington High School team just last summer.

“My dad told me I had potential to become a really good runner,” Peterson said. “Being on a team has helped a lot. They give me advice about not worrying what place you come in, finding other runners to stick with and just doing your best.”

Peterson is hoping she will once again do her best Saturday when she faces the best runners from around the state in Northfield. She is hoping to break the 15-minute barrier on the fast St. Olaf course.

“I’m really excited to be representing Farmington, but I’m also nervous about running against some of the top girls,” she said.

Peterson’s high finish led the Tiger girls to a fifth-place total of 153 points. Lakeville South defeated Lakeville North 44-85 for the team title.

Senior Maricia Pacheco turned in a personal-best in her final career race, clocking in at 15:23 to place 17th and just miss her second straight state bid.

Seventh-grader Anna Palodichuk and freshman Sami Hyytinen also ran personal-best times. Palodichuk was 35th in 15:57 and Hyytinen 39th in 16:01. Sofia Chadwick rounded out the team’s top five with a 56th-place time of 16:29.

Maricella Pacheco (73rd, 16:59) and Emily Schaffer (78th, 17:07) also competed for the Tigers.

Led by Hyytinen’s second-place finish, the Farmington boys placed seventh with 184 points. Red Wing edged Lakeville North 90-91 for the boys title.

Hyytinen started out at the front of the pack, and then let two runners pull away around the two-mile marker before surging back into second place over the final quarter-mile. His time of 15:53 was a personal best and his second time under 16 minutes this season.

“They kind of made their move and I just waited when I probably should have made a move too. I was kind of complacent,” Hyytinen said. “I’m going to try to change that at state and not get into a zone where I space out. I was confident I could qualify and that’s really all I was looking for, but looking at it now I probably could have gone for it because I still felt really good after the race.”

Hyytinen placed 29th at last year’s state meet with a time of 16:11. On Saturday, he plans to stick with Benning and other runners who have been turning in times in the 15:30s and 15:40s this season.

“I know I’m in a lot better shape than I was last year with another year of cross country under my belt. I’m a lot more confident going into state,” Hyytinen said. “There’s no reason I couldn’t be in the top 10 if I run my race. Hopefully I can get a personal record and a good place will come with that.… It’s a matter of running the right race on the right day.”

Hyytinen was one of four varsity runners to achieve personal bests at Owatonna. No. 2 runner Alex Hart placed 25th with a personal-best 16:54 clocking and Sean Dougherty was right behind in 28th with a personal-best 16:58.

Devon Webb followed with a 62nd-place time of 17:42 and Hunter Sevenich completed the top five with a 17:50 showing that was good enough for 67th. Matthew Anderson (86th, PR of 18:19) and Derek Cole (97th, 19:01) also competed.

“All the boys did a stellar job. They went out hard and peaked at the right time this season,” Lippold said. “This has been a very rewarding season watching these boys grow and drop time.”