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Brian Korthals/Daily Globe A group of boys, led by (from l-r) Tracy-Milroy-Balaton's Ryan Tholen, Jackson County Central's Matt Kocak and Marc Strom, St. James' Brian Christianson and Worthington's O.J. Ojullu, run in the Turkey Trot cross country meet Thursday at Prairie View Golf Links in Worthington. Tholen won the race.

Huskies run away from field

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Huskies run away from field
Worthington Minnesota 300 11th Street / P.O. Box 639 56187

WORTHINGTON -- Putting all five of its scoring runners among the top 15 overall finishers, the Jackson County Central Huskies dominated the team segment of the Turkey Trot cross country meet Thursday afternoon at Prairie View Golf Links.

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The Huskies went 2-3-5-11-14 in the team scoring to finish with a low score of 35 points -- winning the team title by 35 points over second-place St. James (70).

While the JCC boys were repeating as team champions -- and improving on their 2007 winning total of 56 -- Tracy-Milroy-Balaton senior Ryan Tholen was winning his fourth consecutive race of the season.

Tholen, who ran up front with JCC's tandem of Matt Kocak and Marc Strom, along with Worthington sophomore O.J. Ojullu, did his usual thing in the second half of the race -- leave the rest of the field behind.

"I tried to keep an even pace, but the wind was really strong and seemed to be in our face much of the race," Tholen said after finishing 24 seconds ahead of Kocak. "There were some other real good runners here today, so I am happy that I was able to break away and take the lead."

For Tholen, it was an improvement from his fourth-place finish at the Turkey Trot in '07.

For the Huskies, it was a dramatic improvement, as the dedicated group of boys is steadily reaping the benefits of a summer of consistent mileage.

"We are pleased with how it's going for us," said JCC co-head coach Brad Strom. "We had good runs from all five of our scoring runners and we were coming off a couple of hard practice days on both Monday and Tuesday."

Paced by Kocak (17:34) and Strom (17:43) in places 2-3, along with a blazing finishing kick by Justin Cook -- who claimed fifth at the chute with a time of 18:04 -- the Huskies claimed three of the 10 individual trophies in the meet.

Sam Hendrickson (11th, 18:31) just missed a trophy, but his late-race effort impressed Strom.

"Sam made a strong move about 300 meters out and passed a couple of guys before the final kick," the coach said. "Cook was bothered by a hip problem last season, but is running much better this year and that really helps."

JCC's fifth runner, Jon Troe, clocked a time of 19:15 and finished 15th overall -- ahead of 74 runners in the 89-finisher field.

Worthington, paced by Ojullu and Aaron Grafing, was a solid third in the team standings with 92 points.

T-M-B finished fourth (103), followed by Murray County Central (129), Martin County West (135), Windom/Southwestern United (195), Mountain Lake/Butterfield-Odin (204), Pipestone Area (246) and Westbrook-Walnut Grove/Red Rock Central (278).

Southwest Christian was incomplete, but Eagle runners Corey Vis (12th, 18:37) and Josh Bobb (22nd, 19:40) both finished in the upper fourth.

Ojullu, who was coming off a tremendous race at Marshall Monday, tried to run with Tholen, Strom and Kocak early in the race. But the pace proved a bit too fast for the first-year cross country runner.

"I started too fast today," Ojullu admitted. "But I wanted to win so I did my best to stay with the guys up front."

But the three leaders steadily pulled away and Ojulla settled for the fourth-place trophy, running the course in 18 minutes flat.

"O.J. told me that he wanted to win the race," said Trojan head coach Mike Traphagen. "He went out faster than he normally does and did a good job -- those are three good runners that finished ahead of him."

After Ojullu and Cook, St. James' runners John Surber and Brian Christianson entered the chute, before MCW's Matt Stoffel claimed eighth.

Grafing had another steady performance for the Trojans, earning the ninth-place trophy with a time of 18:21.

"Aaron has been such a great leader for this team," praised Traphagen. "He has helped all the guys and has taught O.J. a lot."

Completing the scoring for Worthington was the trio of Kreguto Okello (26, 19:56), Michael Patten (29, 20:11) and Ian Fleace (30, 20:13).

MCC's Mark Bau passed Hendrickson at the chute, claiming the 10th-place trophy with his time of 18:31.

John Curley led Windom/SWU (14th, 19:06), while Michael Balla (19, 19:23) was ML/B-O's top runner.

Finishing first for W-WG/RRC was Rich Rohlik (37, 20:45) and Justin Ilse paced PA (38, 20:54).

Other area runners who finished in the top 25 included Mitchell Hart of MCC and Alex Jones of T-M-B, who placed 16th and 17th with respective times of 19:17 and 19:20, along with JCC's Ben Kocak (24, 19:54) and T-M-B's Joe Hook (25, 19:55).

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