Les Knutson

Daily Globe

WORTHINGTON - After practicing daily for nearly three weeks, this year’s edition of Worthington High School cross country athletes are ready to compete in a meet.

That opportunity comes for nearly 60 Trojans at the Canby Golf Course Friday evening at the running of the First Annual Canby Late Night Invite. A total of 12 teams are expected to compete in six separate races, beginning at 7 p.m. with the 2,000-meter junior high girls’ race.

The 5,000-meter boys’ varsity race is scheduled for an 8:45 p.m. start time - under the lights.

“There will be big lights that will brighten up several acres at a time,” explained WHS head coach Ken Henkels. “The meet information sheet also says that Christmas lights will be used throughout the course and each runner will wear a glo bracelet and are encouraged to wear other glo items. It sounds like a neat experience for our first meet of the season.”

Joining the Trojans and host Canby/Minneota will be Lakeview, Luverne, Marshall, Murray County Central, Redwood Valley, Russell-Tyler-Ruthton, Sioux Falls Washington, Tracy-Milroy-Balaton, Watertown, S.D. and Willmar Community Christian.

“It’s a big meet and a unique one, with the varsity teams running in the dark with lights,” summed up Henkels. “We are looking forward to testing ourselves against competition from other schools.”

This year’s early WHS roster has a total of 57 runners listed, including 23 juniors and seniors.

“We really have great numbers, especially on the boys’ side,” Henkels declared. “We have a nice mix of runners in nearly all of the grade levels and we expect lots of competition and camaraderie within each squad.”

Trojans return 11

girls with varsity

running experience

Eleven of the 12 girls who lettered for the Trojans last season are back this season.

Arianza Lopez, who finished seventh in letter points for WHS in 2013, was last year’s only senior.

That means the top six from last season are back, including the consistent front-running duo of senior Alicia Darling and junior Meredith Moore.

“Those two - Alicia and Meredith - have been outstanding runners for us for several years,” praised Henkels. “They both have great work ethic and have prepared themselves well for another season.”

Freshman Jessica Darling was third in letter points for the Trojan girls in 2013, followed by senior Olivia Ebbers, freshman Brianna Newman and senior Kacey Contreras.

Ebbers, who competed well as a junior middle-distance runner last spring in track, has looked strong in practice runs and may run closer to Moore and the Darling sisters than she did last fall.

Senior Rachel Koller, freshman Olivia Adams, sophomore Camila Wede, freshman Maria Contreras and senior Hope Reeves also contributed enough to the Trojan varsity in 2013 to letter last season.

“We have nice depth with 11 girls returning,” noted Henkels. “One of our goals would be to get several girls capable of running closer to Alicia and Meredith, which would lower our team score and move us up in the standings (as a team) in the meets.”

There are a total of 17 girls - six seniors, two juniors, one sophomore, five freshmen, one eighth-grader and two seventh-graders on the full WHS roster.

Moore and Alicia Darling, who have each earned a pair of honorable mention all-conference honors, were last season’s co-MVP’s, while Jessica Darling was selected as the girls’ Most Improved Runner and Kacey Contreras was honored with the team’s special Trojan Award.

Seven seniors, eight juniors

give Trojan boys’ team 15

competitive upperclassmen

Eleven of the 15 boys who lettered last season return for a Trojan boys’ team which is loaded with quality depth.

“A lot of these guys have put in plenty of miles this summer and we believe that quite a few will improve their times as the season progresses,” declared Henkels. “It’s the same deal, though, we need to get our third, fourth and fifth runners closer to our top two.”

Those top two are junior Amanuel Fissiha and senior Matt Jirele, who for the past two seasons have been the Trojan aces.

Two-time state wrestling champion Anthony Luft was last year’s third runner for the boys, but he graduated from WHS last spring. Jaron Solt and Desalegn Zemenfes (last year’s Trojan Award winner) also lettered as seniors in 2013.

But nine other lettermen - in addition to Fissiha and Jirele - are back, including five more seniors, two other juniors, a sophomore and a very good freshman.

Freshman Jacob Prunty was fourth in total letter points for the WHS varsity last fall as an eighth-grader.

“He’s a tough runner,” praised Henkels about Prunty. “We look for him to be improved, along with quite a few of the boys who ran close to him last season.”

Senior Troy Feller, junior Tyler VanHove and senior Jonah McDonald were the next three overall scorers on a balanced list of letter-point performers that also includes seniors Mitchell Schreiner, Oliver Wolyniec and Sam Talsma, along with junior Cameron Jenson and sophomore Ben Penning.

Feller (last season’s Most Improved Runner), VanHove and Wolyniec were each among Worthington’s top-four finishers in one or more varsity meets in 2013.

Fissiha and Jirele, last year’s co-MVP’s, each had several individual highlights last season, including a stellar 1-2 finish at Fairmont’s 120-runner I-90 Invitational in early October. Their ability to produce low numbers will help the Trojans keep their team score down.

“It helps to have two runners up close to the front,” exclaimed Henkels. “Then, you’re only counting three higher scores. We are aiming to get some of the other guys to slice that gap. They are working hard, no doubt about that.”

There are a total of seven seniors, eight juniors, four sophomores, seven freshmen, six eighth-graders and eight seventh-graders on Worthington’s roster for a grand total of 40 boys.

“It’s really neat having that many junior high boys,” concluded Henkels. “We sure have a chance to develop some good runners with that kind of total numbers.”

After competing at Canby Friday, the Trojans will run at Tracy (Sept. 4) and Marshall (Sept. 8) before hosting the 47th Annual Turkey Trot at Prairie View Golf Links Sept. 11.