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Southwest Conference boys cross country: Fissiha leads Trojan runners

Brian Korthals/Daily Globe\ Worthington Trojan cross country runner Amanual Fissiha leads a pack of runners during Wednesday afternoon’s Southwest Conference meet in Worthington.

Les Knutson

Daily Globe

WORTHINGTON —As expected, the depth-filled Marshall Tigers convincingly claimed another Southwest Conference boys’ team cross country championship Wednesday on a near-perfect mid-October day at the Prairie View Golf Links.

While the Tigers had five of the top-nine finishers and repeated their team title with an impressive score of 26 (2-3-5-7-9), Redwood Valley senior Ryan Phillips continued his exceptional season by outkicking Marshall senior Andrew Bell —the defending individual champion —in a classic battle between the two long-time friendly rivals.

Phillips, who 25 days ago (Sept. 21) won the prestigious Milaca Mega-Meet, utilized sprinter’s speed to pass Bell in the race’s last 120 meters, winning this year’s gold medal with a time of 16 minutes, 40.6 seconds over the 5,000-meter (3.1 miles) course.

Bell clocked a second-place time of 16:44.5, leading the Tigers’ team victory.

“This race was like most of them between us,” exclaimed Phillips after receiving all kinds of congratulations following the finish. “We have run against each other lots of times. He (Bell) always makes a strong move and tries to ‘drop’ me and I always try to keep up and stay close so I have a chance at the end.”

Wednesday, Phillips was close, but it looked like Bell’s strength was going to be too much to overcome.

With 200 meters to go, Bell was bearing down on the chute with Phillips trailing by about 20 meters and Marshall’s Blaine Moran clearly in third.

Suddenly, Phillips shifted gears and began his sprint, He caught and passed Bell about 80 meters later and won the sprint to the finish by nearly four seconds.

“If I can catch him, I can usually win the sprint,” said Phillips, who finished second to Bell at last year’s conference meet on the Redwood Falls’ course. “Today, it worked out that way.”

Paced by Phillips, the Cardinals —who had remarkable balance among runners two through five —captured team runner-up honors with 57 points.

Worthington, led by the fourth-place performance of sophomore Amanual Fissiha, finished a solid third with a score of 69.

Luverne senior Cody Hess earned all-conference honors by finishing sixth, leading the Cardinals to fourth place in the team standings with 101 points.

Windom Area (150), Pipestone Area (151) and Jackson County Central (170) completed the varsity boys’ standings of the seven-team meet.

Moran, a Tiger junior, finished third (16:57.1) as the top three runners each bettered the 17-minute mark.

Fissiha, Jirele, Luft, Prunty, Feller produce Trojans team score

Fissiha won a close race for fourth (17:18.9), while Marshall junior Michael Larson (17:19.9), Hess (17:22.9) and Marshall senior Wade DeAustin (17:33.9) each claimed an all-conference (top seven) medal.

RV senior Alex Amunrud (17:47.8) and Marshall freshman Chase VanKeulen (17:48.2) both had exceptional finishing kicks, passing Worthington junior Matt Jirele (17:48.4) right before the finish.

Worthington senior Anthony Luft (18:01.5) won a closely-contested five-runner battle for 11th, clocking a time of 18:01.5.

Luverne junior Drew Weis (18:02.1), Marshall sophomore John Botsford (18:02.1), PA eighth-grader Michael Suda (18:02.2) and RV senior Wesley Peyerl (18:02.2) all finished right on Luft’s heels in places 12-15, respectively.

“Anthony really moved up strong, passing all of those guys and then holding them off with his sprint finish,” declared Trojans’ head coach Ken Henkels. “He did a great job of backing up the nice lead runs we had from Amanuel and Matt.”

Completing Worthington’s scoring were eighth-grader Jacob Prunty (20th, 18:34.40) and junior Troy Feller (24th, 18:54.8).

“I was really pleased with both Jacob and Troy,” praised Henkels. “Each of them went out strong from the beginning and ran great races for us, both finishing in the top 25 and running the course under 19 minutes.”

Junior Jonah McDonald (35, 19:16.1) and sophomore Tyler VanHove (36, 19:16.4) were the sixth and seventh Trojan runners Wednesday in the huge field of 103 competing runners.

Windom Area was led by senior Clay Elness (18, 18:30) and junior Aaron Axford (21, 18:34.6), while JCC senior Peter Nasby —who led the race for the first 400 meters —paced the Huskies (22, 18:45.1).

Luverne junior Ethan Marshall (19, 18:31.7) was the third Cardinal runner to finish among the race’s top 20.

Schuck, Olsen lead Trojans to junior high team title

Eighth-graders Nathan Schuck and Andrew Olsen capped their fine junior high seasons Wednesday with a sparkling one-two finish, leading the Trojans to the junior high team title.

Schuck covered the 1,600-meter distance in a time of 5:44.0, finishing seven seconds before Olsen (5:51.7).

Luverne seventh-grader Hunter Hamann placed third (5:59.0), followed in the top 10 by Marshall’s Quentin Blomme (6:00.6), Windom’s Daniel Green (6:00.7), PA’s Cole Zephier (6:08.0), RV’s Deon Estebo (6:08.6), Marshall’s Damian Caron (6:11.2), Windom’s AJ Fauglid (6:12.2) and Worthington seventh-grader Colin Smidt (6:12.7).

Smidt, Dominic Burns (11, 6:12.8) and Ben Rogers (14, 6:16.5) combined for team places 1-2-9-10-12 to give Worthington a winning score of 34 points.

Marshall (76), Windom (80), PA (82) and RV (83) had a close battle for second.