Eden Valley-Watkins/Kimball was the surprise winner of the Central Minnesota Conference Championship at Pierz, MN on October 22, 2015 at Pierz Golf Course.
This was a very competitive race in which all seven runners were factors for the top three teams. EVW/K won with 55 points followed by Holdingford 58, and Maple Lake 59. It is unusual to have so many teams within four points of each other in cross country, but EVW/K had all seven of their runners in the top third of the 52 runners in the race to seal the win.
8th grader Oliva Kuechle, has been the #2 runner for EVW/K for most of the season and finished in ninth place for the team in the CMC. After her, in order were freshman Libby Yozamp (10th), 7th grader Zya Lueders, (17th), freshman Amaya Lyrek, (18th), freshman Rachel Utecht, (20th), and freshman Krista Loch, (23rd ).
Junior Anna Donnay, led the way for EVW/K for the ninth time in her nine meets this season. In eight of those meets she won by a minute or more, and the CMC meet was no different. Anna is the sister of last year's Class A girls state champion, Emily Donnay, a freshman scholarship runner at South Dakota State University, Brookings, South Dakota. Anna finished in third place in that same contest.
The Donnay's are organic farmers in the Kimball area. Emily and Anna grew up getting up early to do typical farm work before school, and then after school they had more chores to do as well. Anna has an additional job taking care of the chickens which does involve lots of running and extra responsibility. When asked what kind of workouts she enjoyed the most she said, "It doesn't matter, a workout's a workout, but I like the long runs the most."
In the 2015 Class A track & field meet Anna finished 4th in the 3200 meter run. According to Holdingford girls and boys coach Mark Alcorn, "Anna looks much stronger than she was last season." Alcorn, an Austin, MN native, should know as his teams have been competing at the state level for 30 years.
The EVW/K girls team is a very young team and most of the team finishes within a few seconds of each other. Lots of girls came out for the team this fall and many of them are freshmen or younger.
The boys program at EVW/K has only about nine runners out for the team. They ran only
five boys in the varsity race at the CMC meet: sophomore Matthew Notch (18th), junior Zach Swenson (23rd), 8th grader Gregory Gathje (47th), senior Luke Ludwig (49th), junior Joey Kuechle (52nd). This is a group with talent though, witnessed by the continuous improvement of of the boys team since the Maple Lake Invitational on September 4, 2015 when Notch ran 20:36, Swenson 21:36, Gathje 22:46, and Kuechle 24:09. In their last meet Notch ran 18:59, Swenson 19:21, Gathje 20:59, and Kuechle 21:51. Notch also ran a 54.76 400 and a 2:09 800 in track last spring.
The Coaches: EVW/K is mentored by Holly Hansen, head coach of 13 seasons, and Terry Nelson, assistant coach, is in his 15th year. Hansen has had six individuals at the state meet in the past. She says that there have been several changes to the program in the recent past and with three communities involved it can be hard to develop continuity to the sport.
Hansen said this about her experience with cross country and track & field: "I was a runner in high school and I loved it! I did not ever have natural talent and I think I was honestly more in love with running than competing. I was part of a program that competed at state for 5 years straight, and luckily I was able to be an alternate with that team in my senior season. I saw how my team trained and worked together and became this amazing combination of talent and passion - and that is why I threw my name in the hat for coaching when I started teaching. I started with track in 2000 and was able to add cross country to that list in 2002. I haven't coached track for the past five years or so now, but am fortunate to keep xc. I haven't been able to take a team to state during my coaching so far - but we are working on changing that. I have made it to the state meet six or seven times with 5 different athletes. My goal is to have everyone improve themselves throughout the season and to leave the program with a love for running."
Ludwig, a senior harrier, who came out for cross country for the first time because a shoulder injury keeps him out of football, says that Hansen is great for individualizing workouts to suit every different runner's needs. Notch, junior says that "both coaches push us hard in practice, and we are one team." Gathje, 8th grader enjoys cross country because, "everyone roots and cheers for each other, and they are always there to pick you up."