After a solid 2018 season, not everything has gone as planned for the Mankato East boys cross country team this fall.

With the team returning most of it’s varsity runners, coach Chris Ward hoped his team would be competing at the top of the section and for a Big Nine title.

While it hasn’t gone just as scripted because of sickness and injuries, the Cougars seem to be hitting their stride at just the right time, winning the Mankato East Invitational with a score of 48 points Tuesday at Minneopa Golf Club.

East tied Faribault at 48, but won on the sixth-runner tiebreaker with Calvin Moeller finishing eight seconds ahead of the Falcons’ Davis Miller.

“Like most cross country coaches, I think we can still do better,” Ward said. “We’ve been battling through injuries and sickness all year, but I think we’re finally getting toward where we need to be.”

Jett Oachs led the Cougars, and was the medalist, in the boys race with a time of 16:28.

He was closely followed by Andrew Johnson (17:03), who finished third. Johnson has stepped up and filled a large gap for the Cougars after a season-ending injury to Matthew Wedzina.

“He really committed to running this summer, putting in 400 quality miles,” Ward said of Johnson. “He’s one of those cases that proves hard work pays off.”

For West, Hans Rupnow finished sixth at 17:33. Joshua Landgraff was second across the line for the Scarlets at 18:22. The Scarlets finished sixth with 137 points.

Waseca was fourth with 105 points. Matthew Feldkamp finished eighth for the Jays at 17:32, and Michael Adams took 13th at 17:42.

On the girls side, West took third with 85 points.

Ella Dufault of Waseca was the medalist, cruising to a victory at 19:19. She took 33rd in the Class AA meet last season and has been having another successful season this fall. Waseca was fifth with 109 points.

“She’s obviously really talented, but she works so hard during the offseason,” Waseca girls cross country coach Grant Popp said. “She’s been fortunate enough not to get injured, and when you put that with the talent, the hard work pays off.”

For West, Nicole Swanson (20:57) led the way, finishing 10th. She was closely followed by Chloe Aanenson (21:09), who took 13th, and Ana Goellner (21:12), who finished 14th.

The Scarlets have also dealt with some adversity, having already had three meets canceled due to weather. West came into Tuesday’s meet having not raced in over a week.

“I think our team is looking really good, and I was happy with the way we ran today,” West’s Sunshine Langworthy said. “The weather’s been changing, so there’s an adjustment, but I think we’re ready for conference and sections.”

East finished sixth with a score of 113. Emmy Schulz took ninth for the Cougars with a time of 20:53. Ava Matejcek was 16th at 21:26.

Hadley Stuehrenberg of St. Peter took fifth at 20:20. Waseca’s Callie Dufault was eighth with a time of 20:49.

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