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Cross country: Large field ready to run at Turkey Trot

Les Knutson

Daily Globe

WORTHINGTON — With a grand total of 442 possible runners projected for the 46th annual Turkey Trot high school cross country meet (Thursday, Sept. 12), the Prairie View Golf Links will a busy place between 4 and 6:30 p.m.

An annual event since its inception in 1968, the meet has been a solid attraction for area teams as part of Worthington’s King Turkey Day activities. Held for many years on Saturday morning at the Worthington Country Club, the meet has been run at Prairie View since 1993 and for the seventh consecutive time will be on Thursday rather than Saturday.

A total of 13 teams are expected to participate in the meet’s four races, beginning with the junior high girls’ event at 4:30 p.m.

The junior high boy’s race is scheduled to start at 4:50, followed by the varsity girls’ 4,000-meter (2.5 miles) run at 5:10 and the varsity boys’ 5,000-meter (3.1 miles) event at 5:40 p.m.

Both junior high races are 1,600 meters or one mile.

Participating teams, in alphabetical order, are Adrian, Fairmont, Jackson County Central, Martin County West, Mountain Lake Area, Murray County Central, Pipestone Area, St. James, Southwest Christian, Southwestern United, Tracy-Milroy-Balaton, Windom and, of course, Worthington.

“The field is loaded,” sums up Worthington head coach Ken Henkels, whose boys are the defending varsity boys’ team champions. “There will several very good teams competing, as well as some outstanding individual runners.”

MCW sophomore Whitney Smith returns as the girls’ individual champion, running the 4K course in 15 minutes, 52 seconds last September.

Johnathan Surber of St. James, who won the boys’ individual race last year with a 5K time of 17:10, has graduated.

Among the frontrunners expected to challenge for this year’s boys’ individual honors are MCW junior Dylan Brockman, Worthington junior Matt Jirele, Fairmont senior Zac Ehlert, St. James senior Tyler Witcraft, MCW junior Chris Kahler, T-M-B senior Matt Lavoy, Worthington senior Anthony Luft, MCW junior Jonah Mayo, Worthington sophomore Amanual Fissiha and Pipestone Area eighth-grader Michael Suda.

Fissiha finished second at last year’s meet, clocked at 17:26, while Brockman (fourth, 17:42), Jirele (eighth, 18:07) and Luft (ninth, 18:08) also claimed individual top-10 trophies in 2012.

Suda won last year’s junior high boys’ race with a fine time of 5:14 and has been running well at the varsity level this season.

Jirele has run a pair of stellar races this fall, finishing second at Tracy last week and fourth at Marshall on Tuesday with respective times of 17:43 and 16:59.

Adrian senior Nicole Slater, who finished second in the girls’ race at both of those same meets (15:53 and 15:13), is a strong favorite to challenge Smith, as are St. James junior Ashley Lahti, Fairmont junior Katiana Fischer, MLA senior Whitney Klassen, MCW sophomore Morgan Larson, Adrian junior Morgan Sauer, MLA junior Lydia Hildebrandt and Fairmont freshman Jenna Pavich.

Larson finished fourth at last year’s Turkey Trot with a time of 16:12, just ahead of Slater (fifth, 16:13), who will be running the race for a fifth consecutive time, having helped the Dragons win three straight team titles from ’09-11.

Lahti and Klassen tied for seventh last year with identical times of 16:28, while Fischer (ninth, 16:32) also brought home a trophy in 2012.

Worthington’s top two girls runners — junior Alicia Darling (14th, 16:48) and sophomore Meredith Moore (16th, 16:49) — finished well last year and are likely to contend for a top-10 placing today.

MCW, paced by Smith and Larson, won last year’s team title in the girls’ meet with a low score of 43 points, edging Adrian by one point.

The Mavericks, who later finished 12th as a team at the Class A state meet, are the favorites to repeat. Fairmont and MLA will likely also be in the hunt for this year’s team title.

With Fissiha, Jirele and Luft returning, the Trojans have three of their five scoring runners back from last year when the WHS boys won the meet with an impressive score of 36 (2-3-8-9-14).

MCW, which won the team title in both 2010 and 2011, was second last year with 51 points, followed by St. James with 83.

Perennial power Fairmont, which has a combined total (girls and boys) of 61 runners on its roster, will likely challenge the Mavericks, Saints and Trojans for today’s team title in the boys’ meet.

Worthington (47), St. James (46), MLA (39), MCW (38), T-M-B (38), PA (31), JCC (31) and Windom (30) also enter the meet with large overall rosters.