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Cross country: Fissiha, Jirele 1-2 at I-90

Les Knutson

Daily Globe

FAIRMONT — Leading from start to finish Thursday afternoon at Cedar Creek Park, Worthington’s tandem of Amanual Fissiha and Matt Jirele raced ahead of a large pack of 120 runners in the combined varsity/junior varsity boys’ 5,000-meter event and impressively claimed the top two places in the 11-team I-90 Invitational high school cross country meet.

Earlier, Southwestern United eighth-grader Rachel Salentiny ran with the leaders and utilized a strong finishing kick to earn the gold medal in the 4,000-meter varsity girls’ race, clocked at 15 minutes, 20.8 seconds. It was Salentiny’s second consecutive meet victory, as she finished first in the 10-team St. James Invitational Sept. 24.

Fissiha and Jirele quickly moved into the top two positions on a cool, cloudy and calm day in the 37th annual running of the popular Fairmont meet.

After gradually extending the spread on the rest of the leading contenders, the Trojan frontrunners, dueled each other in a closely-contested sprint to the finish.

Fissiha crossed first, clocked at 17:04.9, while Jirele was just a step behind (17:05.1).

“That was a very close finish, I couldn’t tell who won,” beamed WHS head coach Ken Henkels about the race up front between Fissiha and Jirele. “They run together all the time in practice, so those two guys are used to competing like that. Both of them have run very well the past several meets.”

Fissiha, a sophomore, recently placed 24th (out of 521 finishers) at the nationally-known Roy Griak Invitational at the University of Minnesota Golf Course. Jirele, a junior, finished 33rd in the same race.

“We’re blessed with two top-notch, quality lead runners,” praised Henkels, who was pleased with the overall performance of the Trojan boys Thursday, who placed a close second to Martin County West in the team standings.

The Mavericks on team-scoring places 3-4-8-11-19 tallied 45 points, just edging Worthington’s score of 48 (1-2-7-17-21).

Mankato East was a distant third with 83 points, followed by Fairmont (106), Blue Earth Area (119), Jackson County Central (163), St. James (163), Mountain Lake Area (185), St. Peter (239) and Madelia/Truman/Martin Luther (318). Southwestern United was incomplete.

MCW’s Matthew Viesselman placed third individually (17:22.6), while MCW’s Dylan Brockman (17:26.2), St. Peter’s Cody Vacek (17:30.2), Fairmont’s Zac Ehlert (17:44.6), Worthington’s Anthony Luft (17:54.3), SWU’s Logan Knutson (17:59.4), MCW’s Joshua Bjerken (18:01.6) and Mankato East’s Micah Warning (18:05.3) completed the 10-top overall.

Completing Worthington’s top seven Thursday were Jacob Prunty (18th overall, 17th scoring, 18:35.7), Troy Feller (22, 21, 18:58.0), Tyler Van Hove (28, 27, 19:20.7) and Oliver Wolyniec (29, 28, 19:22.6).

“We had three guys in the top seven and came the closest we have all season to Martin County West,” concluded Henkels. Martin County West. “Our first five all ran the course under 19 minutes and our sixth and seventh guys were close, too.”

JCC was paced by Peter Nasby (16, 18:24.8) and MLA’s top finisher was Tommy Kraemer (25, 19:08.4).

Darling, Moore

lead WHS girls

While Salentiny was winning the race up front —- finishing in front of MCW’s Morgan Larson (15:22.4), MCW’s Brooke Anderson (15:23.4) and Mankato East’ Ivy Glade (15:23.6) —- her teammate MaKayla Edwards, also an eighth-grader, claimed fifth place with a time of 15:32.2.

MLA’s Lydia Hildebrandt finished sixth (15:48.5), while Fairmont’s Jenna Pavich (15:54.1), St. Peter’s Abigal Borgmeier (15:57.1) and the Worthington duo of Alicia Darling (16:01.6) and Meredith Moore (16:01.9) completed the top-10 individuals.

“Another fine performance by both Alicia and Meredith,” declared Henkels. “Making the top 10 in this meet is really good and those times were their fastest of the season.”

Fairmont —- on team places 5-9-12-13-15 —- won the girls’ team title with 54 points.

Mankato East was a solid second with its score of 88, while MLA edged MCW for third, 125-126.

JCC, led by Annika Lilleberg (16th overall, 14 team, 16:15.7) and Jessica Christoffer (21, 19, 16:25.7), was fifth with 135 points.

St. Peter (144), Worthington (145), BEA (163), St. James (180), Madelia/Truman/Martin Luther (237) and SWU (incomplete) filled out the girls’ standings.

Eighth-grader Jessica Darling (37, 33, 17:18.3). Olivia Ebbers (55, 47, 18:08.4) and Brianna Newman (60, 50, 18:30.1) completed the scoring for the Trojans, while Rachel Koller (70, 55, 18:48.9) and Maria Contreras (73, 58, 18:59.4) also bettered the 19-minute mark and competed well among the 118 finishers in the race.

“Our girls are competing well and improving their times,” summed up Henkels. “We had a good day at a very nice meet. It was a great overall experience, the kids liked the course and it showed in the way they performed.”

Next up for the Trojans, and lots of other area teams, is the 21-team Dragon Invitational at the Adrian Golf Course Tuesday.