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Dragon girls showcase state's top-ranking at home course

Aaron Hagen/Daily Globe A pack of runners lead the girls' cross country race Tuesday in Adrian.

ADRIAN -- Murray County Central senior Laura Christensen won her fifth race of the season Tuesday afternoon, breaking away from a lead pack of six top-notch girls' cross country runners at the 31st annual Adrian Invitational.

While Christensen was running the 4,000-meter course in a splendid time of 15 minutes, 29.7 seconds, the state's top-ranked Class A team -- Adrian -- utilized another balanced performance to win the team championship by a 26-point margin over runner-up Canby/Minneota/Lincoln HI.

The Dragons, who are the three-time defending state Class A champions, had a low score of 38 points on team places 2-5-7-9-15.

C/M/LH's top five finished 4-10-11-12-27 for a total of 64 points.

Montevideo was third among 10 complete teams with 99 points, followed by Mountain Lake/Butterfield-Odin (143), Luverne (152), Marshall (157), Worthington (164), Murray County Central (173), Springfield/Cedar Mountain (215) and Tracy-Milroy-Balaton (234).

Five teams -- Buffalo Lake-Hector/BOLD, Hills-Beaver Creek/Ellsworth, Pipestone Area, Southwest Christian and Westbrook-Walnut Grove/Red Rock Central were incomplete.

"This was another solid performance by our girls," declared Adrian head coach Doug Petersen. "We had not raced in 10 days, so it was good to get out and go fast again."

After the first 1,000 meters, Christensen found herself in a six-girl lead pack that also included Adrian senior ace Leslie Stover, H-BC/E sophomore rookie Whitney Wilgenburg, PA sophomore Amanda Schoonhoven, Montevideo's Kate Eggers and C/M/LH's Katherine Anundson.

But 1,500 meters later, Stover and Christensen pulled away, turning the individual race into a two-girl chase.

"I made a move and tried to break away," said Stover after the race. "But she (Christensen) is such a strong finisher and she stayed right with me and then took the lead and I couldn't catch her."

Stover, who was running smooth from start to finish, clocked a second-place time of 15:36.

"I was lucky to win," said Christensen after shaking hands with all the finishers at the end of the chute. "Any one of the six of us could have won. I just tried to stay with them and hope that I would be able to have a strong finish."

Eggers and Anundson placed third and fourth, respectively, in the 80-finisher field with times of 15:42 and 15:45.

Wilgenburg, who is running cross country for the first time this season, finished an impressive fifth, clocked at 15:49.

A dual fall-sport athlete, Wilgenburg left soon after she entered the chute -- as her H-BC volleyball teammates needed her for their match against Fulda.

Schoonhoven, who has been having a solid season all fall, kept pace with Wilgenburg, placing sixth with her time of 15:51.

After Schoonhoven entered the chute, Adrian seventh-grader Nicole Slater (15:58) claimed seventh, followed by T-M-B freshman Karli Tholen (16:03), who passed at least a dozen runners in the second 2,000 meters.

Adrian eighth-grader Megan Sauer gave the Dragons a trio of top-10 finishers, as she placed ninth (16:05), and senior all-around athlete Erica Thier had an impressive performance, clocking a time of 16:07, claiming 11th place overall (ninth in the team count).

"That was a breakout run today for Erica," praised Petersen. "Between her and Leslie, they really showed their experience and senior leadership."

Thier, who was a key member of both the 2005 and 2006 AHS state championship teams, missed the 2007 season with an injury and has been coming on strong recently.

"With her getting better, we are getting better," noted Petersen. "Each of our top five came through with great efforts today. Jordin (Kopplow) was bothered by a heel spur from our last meet, but still ran a good race."

Kopplow, an eighth-grader, finished 17th (15th teamwise) with a time of 16:25 to lock up the title for the Dragons.

ML/B-O's Petra Nelson (16:19) and Luverne's Makayla Hohn (16:22) finished 15th and 16th, respectively, while Luverne's McKayla Schilling (16:26), SWC's Megan DeRuyter (16:26) and ML/B-O's Karina Fast (16:27) also made the top 20, placing 18-19-20.

MCC's Lexy Gleis (16:27) and PA's Ann Marie Dykstra (16:27) were 21st and 22nd, respectively.

Worthington eighth-grader Lydia Kemper paced the Trojans, finishing 25th with a personal-best time of 16:39.

Completing the scoring for Worthington were Stephanie Behrens (35, 17:05), Stephanie Jaycox (41, 17:27), Deann Naab (42, 17:34) and Kaitlin Gerber (47, 17:57).

It was Gerber's first race of the season after being sidelined with a knee injury.

Trojan Allison Jaycox, who has been battling sickness, won the 52-runner girls' junior varsity race, clocking a time of 17:20 -- which would have put her third on the WHS varsity.

"We were glad to have Kaitlin run in a meet and we were pleased that Allison ran as well as she did," said Trojan head coach Mike Traphagen. "And, of course, Lydia is continuing to improve."

Kirsten Aljets (18:17) and Kinzie Myrom (18:58) were the sixth and seventh varsity runners for the Trojans, who had nine girls run under 19 minutes, as Morgan Jensen (18:39) also did so in the JV event.