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Heitkamp paces Luverne girls to second place

LUVERNE -- Running on the soggy grounds of the athletic complex west of Cardinal Field Tuesday afternoon, the perennial powerhouse Marshall Tigers won a pair of close team races and repeated as Southwest Conference cross country champions.

Both the girls' and boys' races were contested affairs between the three teams that were expected to contend in both divisions.

But when the final scores were calculated, the Tigers had the winning tally both times.

"We had a solid all-around performance today," MHS head coach Mike Jacobs said after the post-race awards ceremony. "Our fourth and fifth runners really came through for us in both the races, which really helped us win the team titles."

For Marshall, it was the fifth consecutive girls' team championship and the eighth straight boys' crown.

But the Tigers were challenged by both Luverne and Windom/Southwestern United in the girls' event, before both Jackson County Central and Redwood Valley gave MHS a chase for the boys' title.

Marshall's girls (1-4-7-17-22) tallied a winning score of 51, while Luverne (3-10-11-12-24) was second with 60 points and W/SWU (7-13-15-16-19) took third with its score of 71.

JCC (109), Redwood Valley (118), Worthington (139) and PA (152) completed the girls' field.

The boys' race was even closer, as the Tigers (1-5-8-9-11) nipped JCC (3-4-6-13-15) by just seven points, 34-41.

Redwood Valley (2-7-10-16-17) was a close third with 52 points, while Luverne (140), Worthington (149), PA (163) and W/SWU (168) battled for fourth.

The top seven individuals received all-conference medals, while finishers 8-14 earned honorable mention certificates.

Heitkamp, Dyskstra, Gerber earn honors

While Marshall senior Brooke Wyffels won her fourth straight individual title, the area trio of Luverne senior Lexi Jo Heitkamp, Pipestone Area junior Ann Marie Dykstra and Worthington sophomore Kaitlin Gerber each earned all-Southwest Conference honors by finishing third, fifth and sixth, respectively in the 87-runner field.

Wyffels clocked a time of 15 minutes, 36 seconds on the rain-soaked 4,000 meter course, before Redwood Valley freshman Gabi Swoboda (15:42) finished a strong second.

Heitkamp, who won the meet as an eighth-grader in 2003 and finished second each of the past three years, ran a time of 16:04.

After Marshall junior Emily VanKeulen (16:13) took fourth, the race for fifth was a battle at the finish between Dykstra and the fast-closing Gerber, who were both timed at 16:18.

"I felt great and ran strong up the last steep hill," said a satisfied Gerber after the race. "My finish kick was fast as I came very close to getting fifth. I am excited about next week's section meet."

"Kaitlin ran a super race today as she continues to have a great season," praised Trojan head coach Mike Traphagen. "Sixth in the conference is an accomplishment."

Marshall eighth-grader Haley VanKeulen (16:38) placed seventh before all the honorable mention berths were claimed by area runners.

W/SWU freshman Chelsea Garrison (16:43), PA sophomore Amanda Schoonhoven (16;43), LHS seventh-grader McKayla Schilling (16:44), LHS eighth-grader Paige Nath (16:48), LHS freshman Melonie Van Meeteren (16:50), W/SWU freshman Cassie Cselovszki (17;07) and JCC freshman Leslie Handzus (17:14) captured places 8-14, respectively.

Worthington freshman Stephanie Behrens (21st, 17:39) was the second Trojan finisher, followed by seventh-grader Kristen Aljets (36th, 18:29), sophomore Allison Jaycox (37th, 18:33) and seventh-grader Stephanie Jaycox (39th, 18:34).

Kocak, Strom lead JCC

Marshall senior Brian Byrnes (17:19) edged Redwood junior Nate Thooft (17:21) for the individual gold medal on the longer 5,000 meter course.

The JCC tandem of sophomore Matt Kocak (17:44) and freshman Marc Strom (17:47) ran to impressive third and fourth places, respectively, as the young Huskies improved 36 points from their 2006 third-place score of 77.

"We ran well, but we wanted the team title," said JCC co-coach Brad Strom. "Give Marshall credit for running strong through the whole line-up."

JCC sophomore Colin Fischer had a strong finish and earned a sixth-place all-conference medal with a time of 18;11.

While Redwood Valley and Marshall runners took places 7-11, Windom freshman John Curley and JCC freshman Justin Cook sprinted to the chute in identical times of 18:44, both earning honorable mention honors by finishing 12th and 13th, respectively, among the 85 competitors.

Worthington was paced by sophomore Aaron Grafing (23rd, 19:18), Tim Zaske (28th, 20:00), Okuich Abella (31st, 20:16), Alex Stewart (33rd, 20:23) and freshman Ian Fleace (34th, 20:38).