MANKATO — Junior Sylvia Rodriguez of Madelia had to sit out half the cross country season last year. This fall, she plans to make up for it.
Rodriguez, a member of the Madelia-Truman/Granada-Huntley-East Chain squad, turned in a time of 20:41.92 over the 5,000-meter course on Good Counsel Hill on Thursday to win the girls title at the Loyola/Cleveland Invitational.
"My goal is just to go out there and run my best," Rodriguez said. "I try to PR each meet.
"Today I wanted to get under 21:19, and I came in at 20:41. I went to state two years ago, and this year I want to try to make it back."
Waterville-Elysian-Morristown/Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton won the girls team title with 52 points. Le Sueur-Henderson was second (57), followed by Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop (61), Loyola/Cleveland (99), MTGHEC (109) and Tri-City United (113).
LSH junior Victoria Flores finished third (21:41.33), Maple River's Macy Rennpferd was fourth (22:11.09) and Addison Peed led the WEM/JWP Grizzlies with a fifth-place time of 22:13.46. Each of the Grizzlies first five runners placed in the Top 20.
Ellie Nygren led the Crusaders with a ninth-place time of 23:11.36. She was followed by teammates Kyla Haas (17th, 24:22.33), Kielee Grams (19th, 24:47.91), Kaitlyn Sizer (27th, 26:25.22) and Grace Ellingworth (29:45.25).
TCU's top finisher was Kathlee Pichotta, who placed 13th in 24:00.91.
In the boys meet, Hugo Ruiz of TCU showed he's ready to be a key player in Class A cross country in southern Minnesota. He ran a 16:48.27 to move up four places from a year ago and finish first.
"I've been running a lot of miles this summer, and I've been playing a lot of soccer, too, with adults," he said. "That has really helped me a lot. In soccer there's a lot of footwork, and I play midfield so I'm always playing defense or trying to score. That's not easy against adults.
"I wanted to get first today and tried to get under 18 minutes. I want to be one of the best, and to be able to be the best, you have to beat the best."
Loyola/Cleveland captured the boys championship with 37 points. GFW was second (51), followed by Le Sueur-Henderson (83), TCU (91), WEM/JWP (138), Maple River (149) and MTGHEC (192).
Sophomore Mitchell Johnstone led the Crusaders with a second-place time of 17:02.61. Brady Omtvedt was next for Loyola/Cleveland (seventh, 17:30.01), followed by teammates Landon Javens (eighth, 17:36.09), Micah Rentschler (ninth, 17:42.43) and Brett Omtvedt (11th, 18:11.51).
Kaden Cameron led the Grizzlies (fifth, 17:20.28), Lane Schwartz was first for LSH (sixth, 17:25.64), Michael Larson paced Maple River (20th, 19:47.70) and James Hodges led MTGHEC (35th, 21:17.29).
Jim Rueda is The Free Press Sports Editor. Follow him on twitter @JimRueda