PREP CROSS COUNTRY: Six Trojans finish among top 13LOON LAKE — Once again displaying exceptional team balance, the ever-improving Worthington High School boys’ cross country team claimed another victory Thursday afternoon, as the Trojans placed six runners among the top-13 overall finishers and brought home first-place honors from the KKOJ/KRAQ Subway Invitational, put on by Jackson County Central at the Loon Lake Golf Course.
By: Les Knutson, Worthington Daily Globe
LOON LAKE — Once again displaying exceptional team balance, the ever-improving Worthington High School boys’ cross country team claimed another victory Thursday afternoon, as the Trojans placed six runners among the top-13 overall finishers and brought home first-place honors from the KKOJ/KRAQ Subway Invitational, put on by Jackson County Central at the Loon Lake Golf Course.
Worthington’s top finishers — Amanuel Fissiha, Ethan Spittle, Matthew Jirele, Anthony Luft and Ian Stewart — tallied a low score of 29 points on places 2-3-5-8-11.
The Trojans were well-tested by a strong Martin County West squad as the Mavericks’ top five finished in places 1-4-7-10-14, yielding a score of 36.
MCW’s total was nudged up one point when Worthington’s sixth runner, Gordy Moore, outkicked the Mavericks’ fifth finisher in the final stretch of the 5,000-meter run on a near-perfect day for distance running.
“Our kids really ran well, all of them,” summed up WHS head coach Ken Henkels after his squad’s second impressive team victory of the season. “We had outstanding lead runs up front from Amanuel, Ethan and Matt, along with very good performances from Anthony, Ian and Gordy, as all three of them sure ‘stepped it up’ and gave us another team win — over a good MCW squad, which also ran well.”
Spittle set the pace early, blistering an opening 5:04 first mile and taking the lead.
Fissiha and MCW sophomore Jonah Mayo caught Spittle late in the second mile and Mayo eventually stretched his lead into a winning time of 16 minutes and 32 seconds.
Fissiha and Spittle sprinted in second and third with respective times of 16:43 and 16:44, while Jirele chased MCW senior Walter Fuller (17:11) into the chute, finishing fifth with a time of 17:13.
Luverne senior Josh Friedrichsen captured sixth-place (17:25), leading the Cardinals to a solid third-place team finish with 74 points.
Windom was fourth (134), followed by Springfield/Cedar Mountain (145), JCC (150), Mountain Lake Area (169) and Blue Earth Area (181). Hills-Beaver Creek was incomplete.
MCW’s Dylan Brockman (17:30) placed seventh, followed by Luft (17:36), Luverne sophomore Drew Weis (17:38) and MCW’s Chris Kahler (17:45), completing the top-10 individual medalists.
Stewart (17:53) entered the chute 11th, before a pack of four runners — Windom’s Ryan Helmoski (17:58), Moore (17:59), MCW’s Nick Holm (18:01) and Luverne junior Cody Hess (18:03) — finished very close to each other, completing the top 15.
“Getting six guys in the top 13 and having all six of them run under 18 minutes is pretty special,” summed up Henkels, who noted that the Trojans were missing Nathan Landwehr (illness), who has been the fifth WHS finisher several times this season. “Our depth sure helps us if someone is gone or has an ‘off’ day, as we have such good balance that we can cover for each other.”
Worthington’s seventh runner Thursday was sophomore Oliver Wolyniec, who ran under 19 minutes, placing 27th in the 85-finisher field with a time of 18:57.
Spittle, Stewart, Moore and Landwehr are all seniors, while Luft is a junior, Jirele is a sophomore and Fissiha is just a freshman.
The top seven finishers in the 1,600-meter boys’ junior high race were MCW’s Joshua Bjerken (5:18), MLA’s Reynaldo Capetillo (5:41), Southwestern United’s Logan Knutson (5:43), Worthington’s Jacob Prunty (5:52), Luverne’s Alex Kramer (5:59), BEA’s Seth Becker (6:01) and SWU’s Mason Ellenbecker (6:03).
MLA won the junior high team title with 46 points, while Windom (53), Worthington and SWU (66) also fielded complete teams in the field of 43 runners.