Back-to-back champ

Published 12:27 am Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Albert Lea’s Chrissy Monson runs in the Big Nine Conference meet at Brooktree Golf Course in Owatonna. Monson won first place for the second consecutive year. -- Bryce Gaudian/For the Tribune

Albert Lea’s Chrissy Monson missed six cross country meets this season recovering from stress fractures in both legs.

That didn’t keep her from defending her title, though, as Monson won her second consecutive Big Nine championship Tuesday at the conference meet in Owatonna.

“I am so happy for Chrissy,” Albert Lea head coach Jim Haney said. “She has dealt with a great deal of adversity this year, but she has handled her injury as a challenge.”

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The Tigers girls’ cross country team finished third overall, their highest place in over 12 years.

Albert Lea’s Steven Kruen runs in the conference meet Tuesday. Kruen finished 18th overall.

Monson paced the Tigers, finishing in 14 minutes and 56 1/2 seconds. She was followed closely by Bailey Thompson who finished fifth overall in 15:31.1.

“Thompson had a brilliant effort,” Haney said. “With a great kick at the end, she was able to pass competitors and reach her goal of fifth in the conference.”

Thompson led the Tigers while Monson rehabbed her injury. Since Monson’s return to the varsity lineup on Oct. 7, the two have been a 1-2 punch.

“(Thompson) has been a valuable addition to the team as she has taken a leadership role,” said Haney, of the sophomore. “Now she has set her sights on earning her first trip to the state meet.”

Haney says that Monson is hitting her peak and has her sights set on winning the Section 1AA meet on Oct. 28.

She should have a good chance after beating the Big Nine field by 50 yards.

“(Monson) took over the race at the 3200-meter mark and never looked back,” Haney said.

Monson and Thompson finished with Big Nine All-Conference honors, while Haley Harms, who finished third for the Tigers and 23rd overall, earned Honorable Mention.

“In her second varsity meet she ran an incredible race,” Haney said, of Harms who finished in 16:12.5. “She is marvelous kid who has worked and learned how to race.”

Rounding out the top 5 for the Tigers was Riley Schultz and Rachel Kenis who finished in 32nd and 35 overall, respectively.

Kruen leads boys’ in 8th place finish

The Tigers boys’ team narrowly missed their goal of a seventh-place finish Tuesday by three points, finishing eighth in the Big Nine Conference meet.

Steven Kruen finished first for the Tigers and 18th overall in 17:17.2, finishing four spots higher than last sesaon.

“Steve has been running varsity for the past six years and I am grateful for all the time and effort he has put in the program,” Haney said. “His leadership and work ethic is second to none.”

Kruen earned Big Nine Honorable Mention honors along with Blair Bonnerup, who finished 28th overall in 17:36.

“Blair has had a great season and he has been a reliable runner for the team,” Haney said. “His future bodes well as he continues to improve with each race.”

Rounding out the top five runners for the boys’ team was Andy Christian, Luc Malimanek and Eli Malimanek.

Behling wins J.V. race, Haney named Coach of the Year

Albert Lea ninth-grader Emma Behling took first place in the girls junior varsity race in 16:37.9.

“Emma did a great job of taking over that race with about a 400 meters to go,” Haney said. “It was an outstanding race for Behling, as she ran her best time of the season.”

Albert Lea head coach Jim Haney took home an award himself, as he was named Big Nine Coach of the Year.