COLD SPRING — Noah Lahr’s athletic epiphany occurred in Duluth during his sophomore year.
“The Swain Meet,” recalled Lahr, the Times’ Athlete of the Week.
Lahr went from another runner on the edge of being on the varsity team to being Rocori’s No. 1 runner.
“I just went hard, went all out on that race for the first time,” Lahr said. “It was definitely mental.
“I just pushed myself as hard I could and then I felt really great. It made me realize I knew I was able to get there if I just went hard all the time.”
It’s called the runner’s high. He and the Spartans definitely felt it last week when Rocori won its first Central Lakes Conference boys cross country championship.
And they hope to feel it at 3:30 p.m. Thursday at the Village Golf Course in Otsego when they run in the Section 8-2A boys and girls cross country championships.
The section is a bigger deal. The top two teams and the top 10 athletes not on the top two teams qualify for the state meet Nov. 7 in Northfield.
“We went into the conference knowing it isn’t the section and just trying to do our best,” Lahr said. “Everyone came through really nice.
“But we’re really worried about the sections this year. It’s basically the end.”
The Spartans have been in the Central Lakes since 1988. They took second in the conference championships in 2014, which was their best finish since taking second in 1989.
“We went to calculate our score on the scoreboard and we knew it was going to be close with Willmar and Sartell,” Lahr said. “When we figured out we’d won, we couldn’t believe it.”
With the football team in the state tournament and the volleyball team having won the conference championship and aiming for a repeat trip to state, the cross country team’s success was a nice surprise for Rocori.
“It feels really good,” Lahr said. “We’ve been getting a lot of recognition around the school, which is really good.”
“I don’t think we were planning on winning,” fellow senior captain Will Glisky said. “Once we got to the race, we were just so packed together and it just happened.”
Rocori head coach Chuck Griffith is impressed with the leadership Lahr and Glisky have provided. Sophomore Brent Heinen took fifth at the conference meet, surpassing Lahr, who was seventh. Glisky was ninth.
“I knew we could do it,” Griffith said, noting that Willmar and Sartell were the favorites. “On paper, we weren’t supposed to beat them or anything.
“But we’ve been hanging in there. It was definitely a surprise. I didn’t expect to win it.”
Griffith credited Lahr and Glisky with organizing summer runs and keeping the team focused. The Spartans took second in the conference meet last year. Lahr said he ran about 300 miles over the summer and is still seeking to top his personal-record of 16 minutes, 47 seconds. He ran a 16:59 at the conference meet.
The Spartans look forward to the section meet. Glisky and Lahr say it was made for their team. It’s hilly, but not too hilly.
“I know it’s probably going to be another tight race,” Glisky said. “The general consensus of our team is we like hills.”
The Spartans are aiming for a team title, but Lahr, Glisky and Heinen also have a chance to earn individual state berths. They’d be the first Rocori runners to go since Josh Peterson in 2013 and Eric Janssen in 2013.
“Looking at the whole section, it’s going to be really close,” Lahr said.
Lahr plans to head to the University of Minnesota-Duluth to continue his running career. He plans to study statistics and actuary science.
But first there’s that big meet Thursday.
Follow Tom Elliott on Twitter @sctimestom or call 259-3661.