PREP BOYS' CROSS COUNTRY: Tigers dominate, so does MusaJACKSON — It didn’t take long Tuesday afternoon to figure out who was going to win the Southwest Conference boys’ cross country championships. Very early in the 5,000-meter race at the Loon Lake Golf Course it was apparent that Worthington senior Mubarik Musa would win the individual title, and it was obvious that the high-powered, depth-laden Marshall Tigers would cruise to the team title.
By: Les Knutson, Worthington Daily Globe
JACKSON — It didn’t take long Tuesday afternoon to figure out who was going to win the Southwest Conference boys’ cross country championships.
Very early in the 5,000-meter race at the Loon Lake Golf Course it was apparent that Worthington senior Mubarik Musa would win the individual title, and it was obvious that the high-powered, depth-laden Marshall Tigers would cruise to the team title.
Both proved to be true.
Musa, who runs effortlessly in his tight, bright neon green shoes, continually opened up the distance between himself and Marshall’s lead pack of three top-notch distance runners.
By the end, Musa — who is the state’s No. 8-ranked cross country runner in Class AA — had nearly a 300-meter lead as he sprinted into the chute, clocking a time of 16:10.
The Tiger trio of Chad DeAustin (16:48), Grant VanKeulen (16:49) and Andrew Bell (16:54) also ran the course under 17 minutes, with DeAustin crossing the finish line 38 seconds after Musa.
“I felt great,” summed up Musa about his three-peat conference title. “This was a good race on a nice course. It was bit breezy, but you have to adapt. I felt like I kept up a smooth, even pace and never felt much stress.”
While Musa was breezing to an easy individual victory, the Tigers (2-3-4-6-10) repeated as team champions with a low score of 25 points — 28 better than second-place Redwood Valley, which is the sixth-ranked team in Class A.
“Marshall is so deep,” exclaimed Worthington head coach Ken Henkels. “They have great depth all the way through and their top runners are really good. For Mubarik to pull that far ahead of them is pretty impressive. He really ran well today, leaving no doubt right away.”
Redwood Valley was led by the fifth-place run of Alex Amunrud (17:21), who outkicked Marshall’s Tanner Bukowski (17:23).
The Cardinals also took the next two spots, as RV’s Nick VonMosch (17:23) and Ryan Phillips (17:28) gave them three of the top eight.
In a tightly-bunched pack from 8-13, Luverne senior Nathan Stensland-Bos led his Cardinals with a ninth-place individual finish (17:29), just edging Marshall’s Blaine Moran and LHS teammate Josh Friedrichsen, who were both given the same time.
Luverne’s Cody Hess (17:30) and Ryan Oye (17:31) entered the chute right behind Friedrichsen, as the Cardinals had four runners cross the finish line within two seconds of each other.
“That’s as a tight of a pack as you can get,” said LHS head coach Pete Janiszeski, whose team finished a close third with 61 points (9-11-12-13-16). “Redwood had three guys finish just ahead of our four. Our fifth was two places ahead of their fifth, so it was pretty close.”
Luverne’s fifth runner was senior Austin Stroeh, who clocked a 16th-place time of 17:39, giving Janiszeski’s team a mere 10-second spread between one and five.
“All five ran very good races,” the coach said. “We just needed to break up Redwood’s top three, which weren’t that far ahead of us.”
The two Cardinal teams will likely faceoff in a closely-contested race again on Oct. 27 when the Section 3A meet is held at Adrian. Both Redwood Valley and Luverne are among the favorites to claim the top two team places and earn trips to the state meet.
“We’ll be prepared and we know that Redwood will be, too,” summed up Janiszeski about next week’s challenge. “We’ll need each of our guys to run their best race and we’ll see what happens.”
Marshall, which ran Tuesday without sophomore Cody Bernardy — its usual fifth runner — who was sidelined with a sore foot, will compete in the Section 2AA meet in Hutchinson, meaning that all area teams (except Worthington) are through running against the Tigers for this season.
Jackson County Central senior Ben Kocak utilized a blazing finishing kick to claim 14th-place with a time of 17:35 and earn all-conference honorable mention honors.
“I gave it everything I had at the end and found I still could kick,” Kocak said about his fast finish.
Trojans finish fourth with 96 team points
Worthington, paced by Musa’s No. 1 finish, placed a solid fourth in the team standings with 96 points (1-21-22-23-29), while Kocak led JCC to a fifth-place team finish with a score of 156 (14-32-35-36-39).
Windom (26-28-30-42-45) was sixth with 171 points, while Pipestone Area (24-37-38-43-44) was seventh with a score of 186.
Sophomore Clay Elness (28, 26, 19:00) was the top runner for the Eagles, while freshman Aaron Axford (30, 28, 19:02) and junior Ryan Helmoski (32, 30, 19:06) were close behind.
Matt Hamersma ran a time of 18:52, finishing 26th overall (24, team) to lead the Arrows and JCC’s John Isaacson (35, 32, 19:14) was the second runner for the Huskies.
The Worthington trio of Nathan Landwehr (18:22), Amanuel Fissiha (18:30) and Matthew Jirele (18:32) finished in team places 21, 22 and 23, respectively, while Ian Stewart (29, 19:03) completed the scoring for the Trojans.
Worthington’s sixth and seventh runners were Gordy Moore (33, 19:19) and Oliver Wolyneic (34, 19:23) who finished just four seconds apart.
“Man, is our conference good this year, especially in the boys,” summed up Henkels. “Our guys all ran about a minute faster this year than in last year’s conference meet, but it’s hard to move up many places when the quality of competition is this strong.”
There were a total of 80 runners who completed the varsity/junior varsity boys’ race and the Trojans had seven finishers in the upper half.
“Our guys have had pretty steady improvement from last year to this season,” concluded Henkels. “So, I am pleased with our overall progress. We have good potential coming up among some of our younger runners, too.”
Two of those young prospects — eighth-graders Danny Flores (5:41) and Cameron Jenson (5:50) — earned ribbons in the 1,600-meter junior high race.
Flores led much of the race before finishing third — behind JCC seventh-grader Matt Strom (5:35) who utilized a strong finish to win the race, just ahead of Redwood Valley eighth-grader Marshal Quast (5:36).
PA’s duo of Eli Stevens (5:47) and Lucas Griebel (5:49) placed fourth and fifth, respectively, leading the Arrows to the team title with 36 points.
Jenson finished sixth, followed by Windom eighth-grader Spencer Wolter (5:51) and Luverne runners Erik Wohnoutka (5:52) and Griffin Ahrendt (5:53).