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Christensen repeats; Wolverine girls defend title

Brian Korthals/Daily Globe A pack of runners begins the girls' race at the Turkey Trot cross country meet on Thursday at Prairie View Golf Links in Worthington.

WORTHINGTON -- As expected, Murray County Central senior Laura Christensen defended her individual championship Thursday afternoon at Prairie View Golf Links, gradually pulling away from the front pack of four and claiming her second consecutive Turkey Trot cross country first-place trophy.

While Christensen was dueling with Pipestone Area runners Amanda Schoonhoven and Ann Marie Dykstra, along with Cheyenne Bowers from St. James, the team race between Mountain Lake/Butterfield, Windom/Southwestern United and MCC/Fulda was taking shape -- and changing a bit -- over the wind-swept 4,000-meter course.

In the end, ML/B-O repeated as team champions of the 11-team event, outracing both the Eagles and the Rebels by placing its top four runners among the first 14 finishers.

The Wolverines, who won the team crown in 2007 by nudging W/SWU on the sixth-runner tiebreaker, posted a comfortable 13-point victory margin this time.

On team places 5-7-12-13-31, ML/B-O finished with 68 points, while W/SWU (81) and MCC/Fulda (87) were separated by just six points for second and third, respectively.

"Our top four girls ran real strong for us today," praised Wolverines head coach Mike Nelson, who is pleased with the progress his team has made since its first meet two weeks ago. "We have been getting better with each race and it's nice to win a meet as a team."

Nelson's daughter, Petra, was ML/B-O's lead runner, finishing sixth overall (fifth, teamwise) with a time of 16 minutes, 49 seconds.

Sierra Harder (16:54) also claimed an individual trophy with her eighth-place overall finish, while teammates Karen Herrig and Karina Fast entered the chute nearly even in team places 12 and 13 (13th and 14th overall) with identical times of 17:23.

Windom/SWU showed exceptional balance through all five scoring runners (9-11-18-19-24), but the Wolverines put two runners in front of the Eagles' first and four ML/B-O runners finished ahead of W/SWU's third girl.

That front-runner effort by the Wolverines more than offset the fact that W/SWU's fifth girl finished seven places ahead of Mountain Lake-Butterfield-Odin's.

The five scoring runners for the Eagles were Meredith Hentges (10th, 17:00), Kelcey Olson (12, 17:22), Chelsea Garrison (19, 17:34), Emily Turner (20, 17:35) and Kylie Willard (25, 18:01).

MCC/Fulda had a trio of fine lead runs from Christensen, Lexy Gleis (ninth, 16:57) and Erica Drealan (11th, 17:06), but the Rebels were unable to match the balanced depth of the top two teams.

Worthington, boosted by the inclusion of eighth-grader Lydia Kemper in the lineup, ran to a fourth-place finish with 102 points. The Trojans had four runners break 18 minutes and edged Jackson County Central (105) by three points.

"Our girls ran very well today," declared WHS head coach Mike Traphagen. "Allison Jaycox, who always leads us in practice, was our top runner in a meet for the first time this season.

"Each of our scoring runners had good performances, as we competed well as a team."

The Trojans' top five were Allison Jaycox (15th, 17:24), Stephanie Jaycox (17, 17:26), Stephanie Behrens (22, 17:46), Kemper (23, 17:53) and Deann Naab (30, 18:18).

JCC was led by the trio of Kinbrae Bezdicek (16, 17:25) Leslie Handzus (18, 17:28) and Angela Handzus (21, 17:40).

St. James (117), PA (149), Tracy-Milroy-Balaton (209) and Martin County West (247) rounded out the team scoring, while both Southwest Christian and the combination of Westbrook-Walnut Grove/Red Rock Central were incomplete.

Strong finish helps Christensen win

Christensen, who had finished second, second and first in her previous three meets this fall, ran a steady race with the other leaders, before steadily pulling away -- and winning by 13 seconds.

"I felt really good today," the veteran runner said. "I had quite a bit left, so I just started to push the pace and kicked it in with about a half-mile to go."

Christensen and Bowers -- both short in stature -- had broke away from Schoonhoven midway through the race and the two ran stride-for-stride for another 1,000 meters.

But Christensen, who won Monday's Marshall Invitational with her final sprint, opened up the distance and entered the home stretch with a commanding lead.

"She is so focused and so determined this year," declared her coach Dominick Damm. "She just really wants to win these races."

Bowers finished second with a time of 16:19, while Schoonhoven continued her fine season as she clocked a third-place time of 16:26.

T-M-B freshman Karli Tholen had a strong finish, passing several runners in the last half-mile, placing fourth (16:43), while Southwest Christian's Megan DeRuyter turned in a solid fifth-place effort (16:47), just ahead of Petra Nelson.

Dykstra (16:52) finished seventh -- between Nelson and Harder -- while Gleis and Hentgen completed the top 10 individual trophy-winners.

There were 87 runners who finished the race.