With her high school track and field season ending in late June with a second-place finish in the 800-meter at the MSHSL state meet, the Zumbrota-Mazeppa/Kenyon-Wanamingo junior distance runner couldn’t build up her miles in the summer for her cross country season like she was used to. She did run three triathlons, but for the most part, she admitted it was a quiet summer after a hectic nine months.
“I’ll be honest with you, I did not run this summer,” Sortland said with a laugh. “I just started running a week before the season. It was hard because I didn’t want it to interfere with my track season. So it was a little bit of a quiet summer.”
You would never guess that was the case with the way she ran on Thursday.
Sortland was neck-and-neck with Burnsville senior Zoie Dundon for the majority of the race until she found an extra gear the last 800 meters to finish first out of 142 runners with a time of 18 minutes, 38.61 seconds at the Mayo Invitational at tough and hilly Eastwood Park.
Dundon finished second (18:57.34), followed by Stillwater’s Broke Elfert (19:33.27). Red Wing eighth-grader Nora Hanson took sixth (20:13.32), followed by Winona Cotter freshman Sonja Semling (20:13.32). Century freshmen Jazzlyn Hanenberger (20:27.44) and Sophia Trabuco finished eighth and ninth, respectively, while Lourdes freshman Anna Peikert rounded out the top 10 (20:37.22).
Stillwater won the team title out of 20 teams with 55 points, followed by Century (94).
Yet, it was Sortland and Dundon who were the talk of the race. The two quickly separated from the rest of the pack together within the first half mile, relying on each other to dictate the pace.
Burnsville’s Zoie Dundon, left, and Zumbrota-Mazeppa/Kenyon-Wanamingo’s Natasha Sortland race during the 52nd Annual Mayo Invitational cross county meet on Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021, at Eastwood Park in Rochester. Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin
“We definitely pushed each other the whole way,” Dundon said. “Just until the end.”
Sortland said she was worried around the 1-mile mark, as it seemed to her that Dundon may have had the edge on this day.
“I thought she was going to get me,” Sortland said.
But the two stayed side-by-side until the end, with Sortland finally finding the extra gas in the tank needed to get past Dundon on the final hill as she traversed the final 800 meters. That was impressive considering the difficulty of the course and on a day that saw temps sit in the low 80’s with humidity.
“It came down to whoever had it in them,” Dundon said. “She got it the last 800. Credit to her. She ran a great race.”
“The hills (make it tough), and it’s always so hot here,” Sorland said. “It’s tough. … But I’m really happy with the way I ran today.”
The goal for the Onalaska High School (Wis.) boys cross country team was to stick together as long as they could on Thursday.
They were able to do that and then some, as they saw freshman Manny Putz place first and two other runners finish in the top five.
Putz was able to hold off Rosemount’s Will Harder down the final stretch to take the boys title out of 154 runners with a time of 16:28.95, just ahead of Harder’s time of 16:29.18.
Onalaska’s Manny Putz finishes first, less than a second in front of Rosemount’s Will Harder during the 52nd Annual Mayo Invitational cross county meet on Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021, at Eastwood Park in Rochester. Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin
But in the end it was Harder and Rosemount that had the last laugh with the Irish finishing first out of 24 teams with 40 points. Five of their seven runners finished in the top 11. Onalaska was next with 53, followed by Owatonna (70). Century placed sixth with 235 points, followed by Lourdes (242), Mayo (252), John Marshall (309).
Lourdes senior Kevin Turlington was the area’s top finisher, placing 13th (17:15.67). Mayo’s Ryan Gwaltney finished 19th (17:24.82), followed by John Marshall’s Garrett Eick (17:27.15).
Putz’s teammates Tyler Lee (16:38.02) and Ron Walters (16:38.02) finished fourth and fifth, respectively.
“We had a plan to stick together all the way until the two-mile, so that we could have a strong time,” Putz said. “Then after that we could breakaway and give it everything we had.”
It was Walters that set the pace, as he was ahead by about 30 feet over halfway through and held the lead late into the final mile. But then Putz caught up with him and like Sortland in the girls race, he found that extra gear in the final 800 to hold off a fast charging Harder.
“My teammate was my pacemaker for me today,” Putz said. “And after I got to him, it was all downhill from there.”
The final stretch saw it become a three-person race with Harder gaining on Putz and Stillwater’s Adrik Kraftson trying to make his move in the final stretch. Harder gave it everything he had, but in the end it was Putz that finished first in the photo finish.
“I knew he was right behind me,” Putz said. “I just had to keep going.”
“I saw he was a couple of feet from me and I knew I would have to get him leaning if anything,” Harder said. “That’s when the Stillwater guy came and I’m like, ‘Man, I can’t let that guy beat me.’ I needed 10 more yards, but it was a photo finish. This was my first race, first 5K of the year. So I’m really pleased.”
Team results top 10 (girls)
Stillwater 55, Century 94, Eastview 123, Luverne 144, Owatonna 161, Rosemount 195, Red Wing 271, Onalaska 272, Burnsville 272, Chatfield 289.
Top 20 individuals
Natasha Sortland (ZM/KW) 18:38.61; Zoie Dundon (Burnsville) 18:57.34; Brooke Elfert (Stillwater) 19:33.27; Tenley Nelson (Luverne) 19:46.49; Jenna DeBates (Luverne) 19:49.65; Nora Hanson (Red Wing) 20:09.59; Sonja Semling (Winona Cotter) 20:13.32; Jazzlyn Hanenberger (Century) 20:27.44; Sophia Trabuco (Century) 20:31.58; Anna Peikert (Lourdes) 20:37.22; Avery Braunshausen (Stillwater) 20:45.95; Emily Percival (Eastview) 20:53.97; Morgan Peterman (Stillwater) 20:56.37; Alli Thomas (Onalaska) 20:57.79; Marissa Shute (Austin) 21:02.55; Stella Hicks (Stillwater) 21:06.36; Meredith Christensen (Stillwater) 21:14.74; Hadley Knight (Eastview) 21:18.85; Nadia Vaughn (Austin) 21:20.40; Sonja Olson (Eastview) 21:22.71.
Team results top 10 (boys)
Rosemount 40, Onalaska 53, Stillwater 70, Owatonna 132, Eastview 154, Century 235, Lourdes 242, Mayo 252, John Marshall 309, Luverne 314.
Top 20 individuals
Manny Putz (Onalaska) 16:28.95; Will Harder (Rosemount) 16:29.18; Adrik Kraftson (Stillwater) 16:32.35; Tyler Lee (Onalaska) 16:38.02; Ron Walters (Onalaska) 16:41.26; Preston Meier (Owatonna) 16:44.43; Jonathan Roux (Stillwater) 16:45.34; Cole Adams (Rosemount) 16:49.33; Eli Doran (Rosemount) 16:58.16; Joe McNeil (Rosemount) 16:58.64; George Edgar (Rosemount) 17:00.75; Ryan Kilibarda (Stillwater) 17:09.47; Kevin Turlington (Lourdes) 17:15.67; Nathaniel Getman (Eastview) 17:15.91; Hunter Dunne (Eastview) 17:17.14; Gavin Hanke (Albert Lea) 17:19.03; Connor Ginskey (Owatonna) 17:20.42; Austin Oyen (Onalaska) 17:22.34; Ryan Gwaltney (Mayo) 17:24.82; Garrett Eick (John Marshall) 17:27.15.