Cultivating team chemistry wasn’t a struggle for Erica Perpich.
The Crosby-Ironton Rangers first-year head boys cross country coach left that to genetics.
Three sets of brothers along with half of a former brother duo make up the Rangers’ roster.
Throw in a Mitch Skjeveland and a Cameron Larson and you have the formula for a Class 1A state qualifying team.
“This group of boys has been a great group to start with,” Perpich said. “They are not only a talented and hardworking group of kids, but they are kind and respectful as well. When given a workout, they will give it their all and you will not hear a complaint. Both teams (Perpich also coaches the Ranger girls team) have made my first season as a head coach very enjoyable.”
C-I placed second in the Oct. 27 Section 7-1A meet at Cloquet to return to the state meet, which starts at 10 a.m. Saturday with the girls Class 2A race. The gun will go off for the Class 1A boys race at 2 p.m. at St. Olaf College in Northfield. Last year, the Rangers finished 14th.
Leading the way at this year’s section meet was senior Seth Carlton, whose younger brother, Issac, placed 75th.
“Right now I’m not really one of the top guys, but my brother is one of the lead guys,” said Isaac Carlton. “I’m just trying to compare my times to his sophomore times. I want to stay as close to his times as I can.
“This is my first year and having my brother also on the team definitely helps me and motivates me to try and do well. It makes me less nervous because I feel they are the ones carrying the most weight on their shoulders. I don’t have to carry anything.”
Sophomore Will Goodwin was the second Ranger across the finish line in eighth place. His senior brother Jacob Goodwin was 10th.
“Having all the brothers on the team helps create a sense of unity,” said Jacob Goodwin. “All of our families are really close friends. Having all of us together with our brothers has brought our team together. We have fun at practice and we have a lot of fun hanging out outside of practice.”
Sophomore Jude Severson finished ninth in the section meet. His older brother Colt Severson was a member of last year’s state meet team.
Sophomore John Stockman placed 23rd. His older brother, Philip Stockman did not run in the section meet, but will compete at state Saturday.
“We knew last year that we could do it, but it was going to be really close and we did it,” said Philip Stockman. “That showed us what we were able to do. This year, we knew we had the ability. We just had to keep the guys motivated and keep everyone good and healthy. We had to make sure we were really enjoying the season and not get too worried about things.”
Expectations were high this season. C-I opened the year Sept. 1 with a win in the Run for Your Melon in Brainerd. They rattled off five more wins before finally coming in second to Detroit Lakes at the Mid-State Conference meet.
“On the team there was a lot of stress,” Carlton said. “Most of the focus was on the beginning of the season. All the parents were expecting us to get back to state. A lot of times they don’t realize how hard it is when you’re in the race. That’s been kind of stressful..”
The Rangers lack a dominating lead guy. Their success is because of numbers.
At the season-opening meet in Brainerd, C-I runners placed fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth and 13th.
At the Pequot Lakes Invite a week later, Seth Carlton placed second followed by a third, fourth, fifth, sixth, eighth and ninth.
Jude Severson’s eighth place led the Rangers to victory Sept. 24 at the Milaca Mega Meet. He was followed by a ninth, 13th, 14th and 25th.
It was Jacob Goodwin’s turn to lead at the Sept. 29 McGregor Invite. He finished second with a third, fourth, sixth, seventh, 10th and 11th following him.
In the Roger Twigg Invite Oct. 6 at Deerwood, C-I won with a second, third, fourth, fifth, ninth and 11th.
“These guys have been fabulous,” said the supposedly retired, but ever present Twigg. “I know it’s thrown out quite a bit, but this really is a family. It reminds me of the days when I would yell out ‘Anderson’ and the whole team would stop and look because there were so many brothers, sisters and cousins. So this has happened in the past, but it’s been really good. These guys have been a real joy to coach.”
C-I’s pack running has helped stifle any sibling rivalries, but it hasn’t squashed any brotherly tomfoolery.
“A lot of us younger guys we try to mess with the older guys, but we get yelled at,” said Carlton.
Philip Stockman said the younger runners keep the mood light because the team has worked hard to fulfill its goals.
Jacob Goodwin called his younger brother his best friend and said being on the same team is special for both of them.
“The thing that makes our team special is that whoever comes in first or second, if you beat someone on the team, it’s never personal,” said Jacob Goodwin. “It’s all about the team. That’s the most important thing. Nobody worries about individual things.”
And that has been a big help to Perpich.
“With this team, it has been easy,” said Perpich. “They are all very supportive and encouraging of one another and want to see their sibling do well. All the boys on the team are close with one another, whether they are just friends or family. They all want to do well individually, but the drive to do well as a whole team has always been a top priority to all of them.”
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5856.