Girls cross country: Marshall girls repeat at SWC, RV’s Huhnerkoch is still undefeated
WORTHINGTON —Tuesday’s decision to postpone the Southwest Conference high school cross country to Wednesday turned out to be a marvelous decision.
Tuesday’s cold, rain and wind moved out of the area and Wednesday —although cool in the mid-50s — the weather conditions were calm with lots of sunshine.
Eighty-one girls from the seven conference schools competed in the combined varsity/junior varsity race and the top-14 finishers were tabbed as all-conference runners.
While defending champion Marshall and perennial area power Luverne were clearly the league’s best two teams, the chase for the individual crown was quite close between the lead trio.
But at the end, it was Redwood Valley junior Kayla Huhnerkoch who was able to power her way to an impressive first-place finish, clocking a time of 15:08.7 over the 4,000-meter (2.5 miles) course.
Huhnerkoch, who is undefeated this season and ranked third in the among all Class A runners, pulled away from Marshall freshman Claire Boersman and Luverne freshman Madison Schandelmeier over the race’s final 800 meters, entering the chute five seconds ahead of Boersma (15:13.7).
“I was able to get some distance (ahead of Boersma) with about a half mile to go,” said Huhnerkoch during a brief break in her long post-race cool down. “I was really tired when I finished, so I extended myself pretty well to stay in the lead.”
Huhnerkoch, who was injured all of last spring’s track season, finished third in last year’s conference meet, but later won the Section 3A individual title.
“After missing track, it really feels good to be having a fun cross country season,” summed up Huhnerkoch, who moved up in the state rankings after her victory at the Milaca Mega-Meet Sept. 21.
Boersma’s second-place performance paced her Tigers to a repeat team championship as MHS teammates Jackie Turner (15:25.0), Nichole Sample (15:25.7), Morgan Radel (15:35.6) and Sydney Mauch (15:56.5) finished in places four, five, six and nine, respectively, giving Marshall a winning score of 26.
Schandelmeier, the state’s second-ranked Class A runner and the defending conference champion, was not able to keep pace with Huhnerkoch and Boersma late in the race and finished third with a time of 15:21.7.
“Madi’s nursing a bit of a cold,” noted Luverne head coach Pete Janiszeski. “But, those are two very good girls who finished ahead of her.
Janiszeski was pleased that four Luverne girls finished among the first 11, leading the Cardinals to a strong second-place team finish with 55 points (3-7-8-11-26).
Redwood Valley was a distant third with 103 points, followed by Jackson County Central (105), Worthington (120), Pipestone Area (139) and Windom (162).
LHS seventh-grader Gabrielle Ferrell made her conference debut at the varsity level a huge success, placing seventh with a stellar time of 15:37.5 and bringing home an all-conference medal.
Teammate Mariah Aukes, a freshman, led the list of honorable-mention all-conference runners as she finished eighth (15:53.6), giving the Cardinals three of the top eight.
Marshall eighth-grader Courtney Mauch (10th, 16:05.1) was the sixth runner for the Tigers to finish in the top 10.
Meredith Moore, Alicia Darling lead Trojans
Luverne senior Makayla Hohn (16:07.2), Worthington sophomore Meredith Moore (16:08.6), Worthington junior Alicia Darling (16:09.1) and Windom freshman Christianna Green (16:21.4) placed 11, 12, 13 and 14, respectively, completing the honorable-mention list.
JCC was led by eighth-grader Jessica Christoffer (16:23.0), who finished right behind Green in 15th place.
Freshman Annika Lilleberg (19, 16:36.2) and senior Samantha Swift (23, 17:22.8) also ran well for the Huskies.
PA’s lead two runners were freshman Livia Wallace (24, 17:33.4) and eighth-grader Angel Martins (25, 17:37.4).
Windom freshman Kara Thompson (17:41.5) edged Worthington eighth-grader Jessica Darling (17:41.7), as those two young runner finished 26th and 27th, respectively, just missing the top 25.
Completing the scoring for Worthington were junior Olivia Ebbers (35th overall, 32nd team scoring, 18:22) and eighth-grader Brianna Newman (46, 39, 18:51.8).
Sophomore Rachel Koller (53, 42, 19:20.2) and senior Ariana Lopez (57, 45, 19:44.6) were Worthington’s sixth and seventh runners.
“Our girls ran well,” declared WHS head coach Ken Henkels. “Meredith and Alicia both were up close to the front and ran very good times. Jessica, Olivia and Brianna have been steady scoring runners for us and they were again today.”
Marshall edges JCC for junior high team title
Marshall took the top-three places in the 1,600-meter junior high race, while JCC had four runners in the top nine.
The Tigers (25 points) and the Huskies (31 points) were the only two complete teams.
Marshall seventh-grader Amber Tholen won the race by 24 seconds, clocking a time of 6:14.9.
JCC seventh-graders Melissa Brandt (6:51.0), Elise Rasmussen (6:51.2) and Abigail Turner (6:56.8) finished in places 4-5-6, while eighth-grade teammate Kia Holm (7:03) was ninth.
Windom eighth-grader Mia Hockel (6:57.2) and Eagle seventh-grader Lindsay Muller (6:57.5) finished close to each other in places seven and eight, respectively.