PREP CROSS COUNTRY: Kopplow, Adrian girls set to defend; Musa, Surber lead boys’ field for 44th annual raceWORTHINGTON — Several of the state’s best high school cross country runners will be competing today in the 44th annual running of the “Turkey Trot” at Prairie View Golf Links.
By: Les Knutson, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — Several of the state’s best high school cross country runners will be competing today in the 44th annual running of the “Turkey Trot” at Prairie View Golf Links.
Adrian junior Jordin Kopplow, a two-time defending individual meet champion, is currently ranked No. 2 in Class A and leads the state’s top-ranked girls’ team, while Worthington senior Mubarik Musa, a pair of St. James runners, and Adrian senior Austyn Thier are also listed among the top 12 in the most recent state cross country coaches association poll.
Musa, like Kopplow, is a two-time defending individual first-place finisher at the Turkey Trot and is a favorite to win again this afternoon.
“Mubarik has trained well and is ready to race on the home course,” declared Worthington head coach Ken Henkels. “He had a sore knee with some tendonitis and did not run in our first three meets, but he sure looked good at Marshall on Monday and ran a great time to win his first race of the season.”
Musa, who won the Class A state title as a sophomore in 2009 and finished third last year, ran at Marshall’s Independence Park Monday, blazing a 5,000-meter time of 15 minutes and 44 seconds to outrace a quality field of competitors at the 10-team Marshall Invitational.
Two years ago, Musa clocked a time of 16:45 to win the 2009 Turkey Trot and improved 11 seconds last year, winning on a soggy course in 16:34 by 18 seconds over Jackson County Central senior Justin Cook, who capped a brilliant high school running career in June by claiming the Class A state title in the 800-meter run on the track at Hamline University.
St. James junior John Surber could provide a strong challenge for Musa after finishing an impressive fifth at last fall’s Class A state cross country meet.
Surber was seventh in the 2010 Turkey Trot, clocked at 17:44, but showed remarkable improvement over the campaign, qualifying for a second state-meet appearance and entering the chute just eight seconds behind Musa.
“John has traditionally been a slow starter, but progresses throughout the season,” noted St. James head coach Kyle Blomgren. “Getting fifth at the state last year capped off a pretty neat season for him.”
Surber, along with freshman Zuriel Chacon and senior Zach Christenson, lead a strong Saints’ team which is currently ranked No. 12 in the state among all Class A boys’ teams.
St. James, which finished fifth in last year’s Turkey Trot with 133 points, is the favorite in the boys’ team chase today.
“We have a pretty experienced squad with our top three guys and a nice grouping from our 4-9 runners,” exclaimed Blomgren. “We will need to get that wedge to move up in the pack to be successful as a team in the Turkey Trot.”
With Musa leading the way, Worthington should provide a genuine challenge to St. James.
The Trojans finished a solid second (to Martin County West) last year, scoring 83 points on finish places 1-3-22-27-30. MCW won the team title with a score of 69.
While the Mavericks were hard hit by graduation, Worthington lost only O.J. Ojullu, who finished third in 2010.
The Trojans have good balance among their 2-6 runners, with junior Nathan Landwehr, eighth-grader Amanuel Fissiha, freshman Matthew Jirele and juniors Ian Stewart and Gordy Moore providing a rotating order of finish in Worthington’s first four meets.
“These guys are good buddies and have developed a knack for pushing each other and helping one another out by staying in a pack as much as possible,” Henkels said about his tight group. “We have a pretty solid lineup with these guys and we would sure like to run well on the home course and challenge for a team championship.”
Landwehr, in particular, has shown vast improvement from last season and is likely to move up considerably from this 34th-place finish in 2010, clocked at 20:12.
At Marshall, Monday, Landwehr ran an impressive 15th-place time of 18:24.
Other area individuals — in addition to Musa, Surber, Chacon, Christenson and Landwehr — who are likely to contend for a top-10 individual boys’ finish today are Adrian senior Jase Pater, JCC senior Ben Kocak, Windom junior Ryan Helmoski, Murray County Central/Fulda senior Alex Solheim and Tracy-Milroy-Balaton senior Reed Salmon.
Pater, who finished sixth at Marshall Monday (17:13), just missed an individual trophy (top 10) at last year’s Turkey Trot, placing 11th with a time of 17:56.
Adrian girls scored 21 points last year on five top eight finishes
While the boys’ team title could be closely contested, there will be little doubt as to who will win the girls’ team championship.
Adrian has won four of the last six Turkey Trots, doing so in dominating fashion in each of the past two years, especially in 2010.
The Dragons, who have won the Class A state title in five of the last six years (finishing fourth in 2009), put all five of their scoring runners among the top 16 two years ago and won the meet title with 45 points.
Last fall, however, AHS finished 1-3-4-5-8, getting an amazing five of the top eight and “ran away” with the team championship with an incredible score of 21, winning by 59 points.
Kopplow, who won individually in 2009 with a time of 15:57 over the 4,000-meter course, repeated last September, breezing to victory in an impressive 15:25.
Their, who finished third in 2010 (16:07), is currently ranked No. 12 among all Class A girls in Minnesota, while teammate Megan Sauer, a junior, is on the honorable mention list after having been ranked No. 12 last week.
Sauer was fourth at last year’s Turkey Trot (16:13), while Nicole Slater — a sophomore this year — was fifth (16:32). Freshman Morgan Sauer (16:45) clinched the victory for the Dragons in 2010, finishing eighth as an eighth-grader.
All five of those Dragons are back this year, running as well as ever.
“We have run well so far this season, and we have been fortunate to stay healthy,” AHS head coach John Olson said about the Dragons. “We take absolutely nothing for granted and we are looking for Cheyanne Bowers (St. James) and several other good runners to provide a strong challenge for our girls.”
Bowers — who finished second at last year’s Turkey Trot (15:53), 28 seconds behind Kopplow — is currently ranked No. 6 in Class A, after having been No. 3 a week ago.
“Chey is racing as well right now as she has ever run,” praised Blomgren about his experienced ace runner. “She sets a hard pace and has been working hard on her finishing kick, which has improved greatly.”
Blomgren noted that Kopplow and Bowers are both great runners with different styles, who have each turned in some stellar times already this season.
“It should be an interesting race and it sounds like it will be a great day to run,” Blomgren said about the expected weather forecast.
After a warm and dry first two weeks of September, temperatures are expected to be in the low 60s today, nearly ideal for cross country.
Murray County/Fulda’s Tiffany Gehl, who is running cross country for the first time, is a strong candidate to contend for a top-10 individual finish in the girls’ race, as is teammate Seriah Cheadle.
Windom’s Merideth Hentges and Mountain Lake/Butterfield-Odin’s Lydia Hildebrandt are also among the top individual girls who will be competing today.
Worthington’s lead trio of junior Stephanie Jaycox, eighth-grader Meredith Moore and freshman Alicia Darling will strive to help the Trojans improve upon their eighth-place (184 points) team finish from a year ago.
A total of 11 teams — Adrian, MCW, Windom, Pipestone, Worthington, St. James, MCC/Fulda, T-M-B, ML/B-O, JCC and Southwest Christian — are expected to compete in today’s meet.
The action begins at 4:30 p.m. with the girls’ junior high (seventh and eighth grades) 1,600-meter race. At 4:50, the junior high boys will run the same course.
Then at 5:10, the varsity girls’ 4,000-meter race is scheduled to begin, followed by the varsity boys’ 5,000-meter race at 5:40 p.m.