PREP GIRLS' CROSS COUNTRY: Thier, Slater, Sauer sisters lead Adrian to narrow win over LHSLUVERNE — Two weeks ago, Luverne High School sophomore Makayla Hohn won the Jackson County Central Invitational cross country meet at the Loon Lake Golf Course by 19 seconds. Thursday, running on her home course around the athletic complex on the west side of the Luverne school building, Hohn impressively won her second race of the season — also by 19 seconds — and nearly led her up and coming young Cardinals to a girls’ team victory in the process.
By: Les Knutson, Worthington Daily Globe
LUVERNE — Two weeks ago, Luverne High School sophomore Makayla Hohn won the Jackson County Central Invitational cross country meet at the Loon Lake Golf Course by 19 seconds.
Thursday, running on her home course around the athletic complex on the west side of the Luverne school building, Hohn impressively won her second race of the season — also by 19 seconds — and nearly led her up and coming young Cardinals to a girls’ team victory in the process.
But, perennial power Adrian — despite running without ace Jordin Kopplow, the Dragons’ top runner in every meet this season — had four girls finish among the top six and claimed the team title with a low score of 31 points.
Luverne, which had all five of its scoring runners place in the top 13, was a close second with 35 points (1-4-7-10-13).
Worthington, paced by the individual medalist performances of eighth-grader Meredith Moore and freshman Alicia Darling, edged Tracy-Milroy-Balaton, 75-79, for third place in the team standings of the six-school meet, while Flandreau Indian School (S.D.) and Pipestone Area were each incomplete (without five finishing runners).
In the chase for the individual title over the 4,000-meter course — over mostly flat ground on an extremely windy afternoon — it was Adrian senior Austyn Thier, along with Hohn and Luverne seventh-grade sensation Madison Schandelmeier, who moved to the front of the 41-runner field.
Hohn, who finished fourth in her last race (at Slayton, Sept. 27) made a strong move going up the course’s steepest hill at about the mile mark and began to pull away.
“I just powered up the hill,” Hohn explained about her strategy. “It turned out to be a good race for me — one of my best ever, because I was able to get a nice lead and hold it.”
Indeed, Hohn steadily increased the gap over the remaining 2,400 meters and then repeated her hill tactics to make sure that the athletic Thier — who is one of the state’s best 800-meter runners (for AHS in the spring) — was not close enough to catch her with her kick.
“I know that Thier is very fast and could beat me in a sprint,” Hohn said. “So, I just powered up the hill again and gave it everything I had to the finish. This is a confidence builder for me and it feels good to win a race on our home course with our fans cheering us on.”
Hohn’s winning time was 16 minutes and three seconds, while Thier paced Adrian’s winning team effort, clocked at 16:22.
“Makayla really did run a great race,” summed up LHS head coach Pete Janiszeski. “She was battling a cold last week (at Slayton) and was feeling much better today, which allowed her to show our crowd how good of a cross country runner she is.”
Slater secures third place with blazing kick
While Kopplow was sidelined with a sore foot, Thier set the pace for Adrian — with the trio of Nicole Slater and the Sauer sisters, Megan and Morgan, not far behind.
Schandelmeier, who broke onto the varsity scene with a brilliant individual victory at Slayton nine days earlier, was running in third place after conquering the steep hill for a second time.
But, Slater was gaining ground and as she reached the top of the hill — about 100 meters from the finish — the encouraging cheers of “Bear (Slater’s nickname), go get her,” helped her shift gears and find a sprint kick.
“We really work on hills a lot,” Slater said about her ability to sprint after scaling the hill. “So, I’m used to that ‘dead feeling’ in the legs. The cheering from our fans, helped me dig down and find some extra speed at the finish.”
Slater’s kick brought her to the chute in third place with a time of 16:35, while Schandelmeier finished a close fourth (16:36).
Adrian’s Megan Sauer — who ran with Slater for most of the race — placed fifth (16:41) and was praised by Slater for helping her keep a steady pace.
“Megan and I always work together during the races,” Slater said. “That really helps us both, and having Austyn running in front as our leader today was a good thing, too.”
Morgan Sauer, who drew praise from AHS head coach John Olson, finished sixth (17:01), giving the Dragons four of the first six places.
“Morgan really ran a great race,” declared Olson. “She was closer, time-wise, to both Nicole and Megan than she has been in several other meets. Morgan really stepped it up when we needed it.”
But four low scores are not enough to win a meet.
Without Kopplow’s usual low number, the Dragons needed a solid fifth-runner performance from someone else.
Thursday, they had four candidates.
The foursome of sophomore Haley Howe (19:27), senior Hunter Hieronimus (19::29), eighth-grader Megan Tweet (19:39) and eighth-grader Jada Elias (19:44) all finished within 17 seconds of each other in the middle of the pack.
Howe (16th, 15th teamwise) and Hieronimus (17th) both passed a Tracy-Milroy-Balaton runner with strong finishing kicks at the top of the hill, allowing the Dragons (2-3-5-6-15) to clinch their four-point win.
“Haley and Hunter were both finishing well and each moved up a place at the end,” praised Olson. “Their efforts — along with Nicole passing Luverne’s second runner in the sprint and the steady runs of Austyn, Megan and Morgan — combined to give us another team win.”
Luverne’s Anna Tofteland (17:39), Madi Oye (18:02) and Naomi Dooyema (18:53) finished in places 7, 10 and 13, respectively, to complete the Cardinals’ scoring.
“Madi Oye had a very nice race,” praised Janiszeski. “She’s coming on, getting better with each meet.”
Moore, Darling lead WHS, finish 8-9, run course under 18:00
The duo of Moore and Darling — who each made their varsity debuts at Luverne last year — paced the Trojans by placing eighth and ninth, respectively, with nearly identical times.
Moore was clocked at 17:53.7, while Darling crossed the line at 17:54.0.
“Wow, did Meredith and Alicia both run well today,” praised WHS head coach Ken Henkels about his two promising young runners. “Considering how windy it was, their times were outstanding.”
Last year — under ideal weather conditions — Darling ran the course in 19:03 (finishing 14th), while Moore was clocked at 19:18, in 15th place.
“That’s quite an improvement by both of them,” summed up Henkels.
Completing the scoring for the Trojans Thursday were Stephanie Jaycox (14th, 19:01), Ariana Lopez (24, 21, 20:35) and Jennifer Majerus (26, 23, 20:50).
In the 1,600-meter junior high race, the Trojans won the team title, putting five runners among the top 13 finishers.
Rachel Koller (7:59) led Worthington with a sixth-place finish, while Kattiana Armstrong (eight, 8:26), Lauren Marten (10, 8:52), Alyssa Williams (12, 9:07) and Mary Abella (13, 9:10) completed the team victory for the young Trojans.