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Early Bird: The First Victory Proves Depth
   Last year, the day before the race, Southwest coach Ben Zhao informed his runners that, due to a foot bruise, top runner Forrest Tahdooahnippah would not be running at Early Bird. Despite great efforts by some of the younger runners to fill in for their top runner's absence, the team finished second for the first time in years. Southwest has won the Early Bird Invite for many of the past several years, including recent victories in 1998, 1999 and 2000. The loss in 2001 was a little disappointing but led to greater disappointment as Forrest's injuries worsened through out the season.
   This year's story was similar, but with a different ending. State-ranked Neil Grosscup did not compete in the race, but even without him the Southwest depth was deep enough to pull ahead of second place Edison by 19 points. Top ranked in state Forrest easily won the race, while Erik DeLapp finished 6th, Dan Dickinson finished 8th, Erik Maloney finished 9th, and rounding out the top five was Sophomore sensation Evan Rowe placing 27th. Finishing up for the top seven were Austin Groth and Eric Carter with places of 36 and 42. The Southwest total team score was 51 points, beating out second place Minneapolis Edison's 70 point score, despite Edison's impressive 1-2 punch with a 3rd and 4th place finish. Many of Southwest's male athletes strongly believe that if Neil Grosscup had run, their total team score could have been as low as 29 points, but it is mere speculation.
   Although a few of the top male runners were not very pleased with their efforts, it is good to see a bit more depth on the team this year than last, with great improvements made in many of the younger runners. An impressive number of junior varsity runners finished the race and put faith into the future of Southwest cross country.
   On the women's side, senior Callie Pastarr and sophomore Molly Tolins led the women to a fourth place team finish. Callie finished in the top ten while Molly finished in the mid teens. Rounding out the top five (in no particular order) were Trina Pastarr, Katherine Ketter and Lizzy Boosalis.
   The course, at the National Sports Center in Blaine, takes the athletes around a loop on a soccer field that is roughly one mile. The men run three laps and the women run two. It is uncertain as to the exact distance of the races, but it is speculated that the men's course, while supposed to be three miles, is actually 5020 some meters, based on measurements with a measuring wheel. The course has minimal hills as it runs around a soccer field, and the grass was very wet and soft. Although the temperature was comfortably in the high 60's, the conditions were slow overall. Since no one seems to know exactly what the measurement of the course is, THE RUNNERS PAGE will not post any time results from this meet.
   The next race Southwest will face is Red Knight, held this year at Minehaha Falls. The race is shorter and rewards more depth as seven athletes' times are added for an overall team time. It should prove to be interesting.

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