Denfeld News

Aug. 29, 2010
Duluth News Tribune

Runners from Denfeld and Central bond
By Kevin Pates

As Duluth Central and Denfeld join forces in 2010-11, athletes need time just to get to know each other.

During the first week of cross country practice, as runners met at 8 a.m. in the Central lobby, Denfeld students stood in one clump and Central students in another. By the end of the week, on a run to Chester Bowl, a few handshakes and introductions were exchanged, and a bit of team bonding began.

The first meet was Friday in the Twin Ports Invitational at Duluth Marshall when they combined as Central’s team. Senior Matt Kero, coming from Denfeld, won the boys 5,000-meter race.

“You just have to get out there and meet people and find out who they are,” said Central junior Nate LaFond, who also participates in Nordic skiing and track. “When I started here in ninth grade, after coming from (Duluth) Marshall, I wasn’t good at running, but the team welcomed me and that made me want to come back the next day.

“Once school starts and we are seeing each other in the hallway, you won’t even know we’re from different schools.”

Dwindling runner numbers at the schools have been boosted by the consolidation. Coaches Joel Holman and Gary Lepisto have 30-plus athletes and can field a full girls team (there were only two girls on the 2009 Denfeld varsity).

The boys team could be as strong as any in Northeastern Minnesota. Central hasn’t qualified a boys team for the Minnesota Class AA meet since 1999 and Denfeld last advanced in 1998.

“We should have a very solid team, and we’re only going to get better the more we run together,” said Kero, who ran at Denfeld the past four years and is a hockey defenseman. “In hockey, we’ve been meeting three days a week for practice since June at the Heritage Center, and have had a couple of tournaments, and we jelled pretty quickly. All of the runners seem to have a good attitude about being on the same team.”

Kero was a 2009 individual state-meet qualifier, placing seventh in Section 7AA. Also coming from Denfeld are sophomores Matt Lepisto and Neal Kucera. Along with LaFond from Central are senior Carson Powers and junior Jonah Sorell. The top girls are eighth-grader Diana Hanka, 10th in Section 7AA last season at Central, senior Amanda Boman of Denfeld and senior Mary VonRueden. Kero’s sister, Jessica, a ninth-grader, is also on the team.

On the sidelines for the first time in 33 years is former Central cross country coach Kerry Louks, 60. He retired in 2006 as the school’s athletic director, but continued to coach through 2009, the 32nd season at his alma mater. Deb Wendling had assisted Louks for 26 years.

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