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PREP CROSS COUNTRY: Jackson County Central boys win title

Aaron Hagen/daily Globe A total of 104 runners start the boys' race at the Turkey Trot cross country race Thursday at Prairie View Golf Links in Worthington.1 / 3
Worthington's Mubarik Musa runs ahead of the pack en route to an individual title.2 / 3
Aaron Hagen/Daily Globe Jackson County Central's (from left) Justin Cook, Matt Kocak and Marc Strom run ahead of Worthington's O.J. Ojullu (right)3 / 3

WORTHINGTON -- Making it look easy, Worthington's Mubarik Musa took the lead early and stretched the distance on the rest of the 104-finisher field at Prairie View Golf Links Thursday afternoon, claiming the boys' individual championship of the 42nd annual Turkey Trot high school cross country meet.

Running on a warm afternoon (77 degrees) with sunshine and no wind, Musa clocked a time of 16 minutes, 45 seconds over the 5,000-meter course, winning the race by 36 seconds.

"It was extremely hot," the talented Trojan sophomore said after winning his third consecutive meet of the season. "I wish for better conditions and more competition. I would rather come from behind or have somebody chasing me down, so then I can race to the finish."

While Musa -- who was clocked at 4:58 for his first mile -- ran alone up front, the race for second was closely-contested and included a trio of Jackson County Central runners.

Sparked by a two-four-five finish from the trio of Justin Cook (17:21), Matt Kocak (17:29) and Marc Strom (17:50), the Huskies repeated as team champions, posting a winning score of 43 points.

"Our top three did what we expected," praised JCC co-head coach Kerri Kocak. "But, what really won the meet for us was the way that Jon (Troe) and Sam (Hendrickson) came through. Those two guys found each other sooner and they both raced together to the finish."

Troe (18:54) and Hendrickson (18:55) finished 16th and 18th overall, respectively, sealing the victory for the Huskies, who scored 16 points better than runner-up Martin County West (59) and well ahead of Worthington (84) and Adrian (85).

"Putting all five scoring runners in the top 20 was pretty cool," Kocak declared. "We ended up having all five finish before the third runner from both Worthington and Adrian, so that sure made a big difference."

While the team chase was expected to be a three-way battle between JCC, Adrian and Worthington, it was a well-balanced Martin County West squad that gave the Huskies the most competition.

"We knew that JCC was kind of the cream of the crop," Adrian first-year head coach John Olson said. "And we knew that Worthington was good, but Martin County West was a surprise -- there were several good teams competing here."

In the team scoring -- discounting runners from incomplete teams (without five finishers) -- the Huskies went 2-4-5-15-17, while the Mavericks scored with places 6-8-12-14-19.

"We were able to outrun Adrian and Worthington with our fourth and fifth finishes," explained Kocak. "But, we needed great runs from our top three to put some distance between us and MCW, who also had five guys in the top 20."

Worthington (1-3-20-25-35) edged Adrian (7-9-18-22-29) by one point, outscoring the Dragons by 12 points in the top two slots.

St. James (11-16-21-26-27) was fifth in the team scoring with 101 points, followed by Tracy-Milroy-Balaton (174), Mountain Lake/Butterfield-Odin (176), Murray County Central (197), Windom (224) and Pipestone Area (244).

Southwest Christian was incomplete, but the Eagles' Corey Vis (18:48) finished 14th.

Cook, Ojullu, Kocak battle for second

As Musa was pulling away, Cook and Kocak were battling with Worthington junior O.J. Ojullu for second place.

Cook, a junior, who is a middle-distance runner and sprinter in track, showed his speed as he closed in on the finish chute, outkicking Ojulllu (17:25) by four seconds to win that race.

"Both Mubarik and O.J. had super performances for us," declared Worthington head coach Ken Henkels. "Musa ran all by himself -- he is pretty amazing -- and Ojullu ran his own race and competed well with a trio of very good JCC runners."

While Kocak and Strom took places four and five, the top 10 (trophy winners) were rounded out by MCW's Matt Stoffel (17:57), Adrian's Nate Reyne (18:07), MCW's Adam Kleine (18:10), Adrian's Jordan Pater (18:21) and T-M-B's Jeremy Hoflock (18:26).

Other area runners that finished among the top 20 were Windom's John Curley (13th, 18:47) and Adrian's Ross Weineke (19th, 18:56).

"I am really happy with the progress that Ross is making," Olson said about Wieneke, a senior, who is running again after taking two seasons off. "He has shown steady improvement in each meet."

Ethan Olson (23rd, 19:19) and Zach Runia (30th, 19:49) were Adrian's fourth and fifth finishers, while the trio of Aaron Grafing (21st, 19:03), Kreguto Okello (26th, 19:31) and Michael Patten (36th, 20:20) completed the scoring for Worthington.

"These guys will come on as the season progresses," said Henkels. "They each show determined efforts day after day in practice."

The duo of Schuyler Canfield and Joey Erickson paced MCC, finishing 24th and 25th, respectively, with identical times of 19:21.

Adam Blomgren (31st, 19:53) was ML/B-O's lead runner and Justin Isle (42nd, 20:40) was the first PA runner to enter the chute.

PA's Andrew Berg won the 1,600-meter junior high boys' race, clocking a time of 5:40, while ML/B-O's Daniel Nelson ran the course in 5:50 and paced the young Wolverines to the team title.