LOON LAKE -- Getting a well-balanced performance from all five scoring runners -- especially from its lead duo of Meredith Hentges and Emily Turner -- the Windom/Southwestern United girls' cross country team finished a solid second in the KKOJ/KRAQ/Subway Invitational Thursday, hosted by Jackson County Central at the Loon Lake Golf Course.
Blue Earth Area was even better balanced, as the Buccaneers put all five of their counting runners between eighth and 13th -- giving them first place in the 10-team meet with a low score of 52 points.
The Eagles, however, tallied an impressive score of 64 on team places 2-3-14-15-30, as they finished 29 points ahead of third-place Luverne (93).
Mountain Lake/Butterfield-Odin was missing its usual third runner (Karina Fast) and finished fourth with 103 points.
Worthington (112), JCC (125), Springfield/Cedar Mountain (166) and St. Peter (191) rounded out the complete teams. Martin County West and Martin Luther were each incomplete.
St. Peter freshman Morgan Osborne utilized a blazing finish to pass both Hentges and Turner in the final 300 meters, winning the 4,000-meter race in a splendid time of 15 minutes and 40 seconds.
Hentges and Turner, who had run side-by-side in the lead for most of the race, finished second and third, respectively, with times of 15:44 and 15:45.
"I was really happy with how Emily pushed me and kept me going," said Hentges, a freshman, who has been the lead Eagle in most meets this season. "That was my best time ever."
Turner, a sophomore, who has been showing steady progress this fall, ran by far her best race of her distance-running career.
"This was amazing," said a smiling Turner after the race. "I went out a lot faster and I liked the feeling of running at the front of a race."
While Turner and Hentges were pushing the pace for the Eagles up front, fellow W/SWU runners Chelsea Garrison, Kelcey Olson and Kylie Willard were doing their part to make sure their team had a good day.
Garrison, a sophomore, has been bothered by a sore knee much of the season. But the determined all-around athlete had a strong finish Thursday and she was vocally encouraging Olson to sprint with her down the final stretch.
Garrison's kick moved her into 14th place at the chute with a time of 16:26.
Olson made her move a bit later, nearly catching Garrison, and finished 15th, clocked at 16:27.
Willard ran the course in 17:14 and placed 30th -- ahead of 58 runners in the 88-finisher field -- and second among all the fifth runners.
"Today was a good meet for us," declared W/SWU head coach Mike Kray. "The girls really raced, and we are reaping the fruits of their labor -- we have been working hard."
The performance by the Eagles left all five scoring runners beaming, as they realized what they had accomplished.
"Blue Earth beat us today," chimed Garrison. "But we beat Mountain Lake for the first time this season, after finishing second to them in the last two meets."
ML/B-O, coming off meet victories at Worthington's Turkey Trot (Sept. 11) and the Windom Invitational (Sept. 15), was led by juniors Sierra Harder (15:53) and Petra Nelson (15:55), who finished third and fourth, respectively.
Luverne was paced by eighth-grader McKayla Schilling, who finished an impressive seventh with a time of 16:01.
BEA took places 8-9-10 before Luverne senior veteran Kayla Raddle (16:17) entered the chute in 11th place.
The Bucs then locked up the team title by getting places 12 and 13.
Garrison and Olson utilized their strong finishing kicks to round out the top 15 individuals.
Worthington captured four of the next nine places, as the Trojan girls packed together well and finished 13 points ahead of JCC.
Allison Jaycox (16:28), Stephanie Behrens (16:36), Lydia Kemper (16:42) and Stephanie Jaycox (16:55) finished in places 16-20-21-24, respectively, while Deann Naab completed the Trojan scoring by finishing 31st with a time of 17:27.
"We were happy with how our girls ran," said WHS head coach Mike Traphagen. "The competition was very good here. To have four girls clock times under 17 minutes and get all five scoring runners under 18 was very pleasing."
Leading JCC was Kinbrae Bezdicek, who finished 17th (16:32), followed by Leslie Handzus (16:56), Megan Johnson (16:59), Angela Handzus (17:11) and Hope Belknap (17:12) in places 25-26-28-29, respectively, as the Huskies had a strong pack finish.
Completing the scoring for Luverne were Makayla Hohn (19th, 16:35), Josey Kockelman (23rd, 16:46) and Ashlie Hess (33rd, 17:31).
ML/B-O's third, fourth and fifth runners were Karen Herrig (18th, 16:34), Nadya Bucklin (34th, 17:36) and Jill Langland (42nd, 18:39).