PREP CROSS COUNTRY: State's top-ranked runners competing today at 'Turkey Trot'

WORTHINGTON -- Today's 43rd annual running of the Worthington-hosted high school cross country meet, known as the "Turkey Trot," features Minnesota's top-ranked Class A girls' team and will also showcase the talents of two area distance stars who...

WORTHINGTON -- Today's 43rd annual running of the Worthington-hosted high school cross country meet, known as the "Turkey Trot," features Minnesota's top-ranked Class A girls' team and will also showcase the talents of two area distance stars who are each rated No. 1 in the state.

Adrian sophomore Jordin Kopplow is the top-ranked girls' cross country runner among all the Class A schools in Minnesota, while Worthington junior Mubarik Musa has the same distinction in the boys' ratings.

Both Kopplow and Musa are the meet defending champions, as Kopplow ran the girls' 4,000-meter course at Prairie View Golf Links in 15 minutes, 57 seconds to win the first-place trophy in 2009 and Musa was clocked at 16:45 while winning the boys' 5,000-meter race.

Both Kopplow and Musa are undefeated this season, having each won individual titles in their respective races at Mountain Lake (Sept. 1) and Marshall (Sept. 13).

Meanwhile, defending Turkey Trot girls' team champion Adrian is the No. 1 ranked team in the latest ratings, released this week by the Minnesota State Cross Country Coaches Association.


"Things have been going real well for us," Adrian second-year head coach John Olson said Wednesday afternoon. "Our girls have had two very good meets so far and have shown consistent improvement from last season."

The Dragons, who won four straight Class A girls' state championships from 2005-2008 before finishing fourth last November, won the '09 Turkey Trot with a low score of 46 points, putting all five scoring runners among the top 16 finishers.

Jackson County Central is three-time defending boys' team champion, repeating last September with a winning score of 43 points.

The Huskies, however, graduated three of their scoring runners from last year's team and a four-peat may be difficult.

"We are going to do our best and try hard to defend our title," JCC co-head coach Brad Strom said Wednesday. "We won't go down easy."

The Huskies do have a pair of top-notch runners returning in senior veterans Justin Cook and Marc Strom, who finished second and fifth, respectively, in last year's Turkey Trot.

"Cook beat a couple of state-ranked runners at Montgomery (Sept. 9), who finished ahead of him at the state meet last year," Coach Strom said. "We are seeking to get all five of our scoring runners under 20 minutes, which should make us competitive and give us a shot at another Turkey Trot team title."

In addition to Adrian, JCC and Worthington, the other teams competing in the 10-school meet -- which starts at Prairie View with the girls' junior high 1,600-meter race at 4:30 p.m. -- are Martin County West, Mountain Lake/Butterfield-Odin, Murray County Central, Pipestone Area, St. James, Tracy-Milroy-Balaton and Windom.


The boys' junior high 1,600-meter race follows at 4:50, while the girls' varsity (5:10) and boys' varsity (5:40) events will complete the day of distance running over the grass-covered hills.

Musa, Ojullu ranked 1-3

Musa, the defending Class A state champion, is an obvious favorite to repeat as the boys' winner today, while aiming for the 17-year-old meet record of 16:16 set by state-caliber runner Josh Metcalf of ML/B-O in 1993.

Metcalf, who taught elementary physical education in Worthington several years ago before taking a teaching-coaching position at Glencoe-Silver Lake, finished second in the state Class A cross country meet in 1992 and fourth in 1993.

While Musa chases the record, the rest of the expected field of 60-80 varsity runners will be chasing him.

Worthington senior O.J. Ojullu, who came on strong at season's end in 2009 and finished sixth at the state meet, is currently ranked third in Class A and has given the Trojans a pair of 1-2 finishes in the team's first two meets.

"Both Mubarik and O.J. have been terrific so far this season," praised WHS second-year head coach Ken Henkels. "It's really nice having a home meet for these two guys to display their talents and we are looking forward to the team competition to see how well we fare with JCC and other strong squads like MCW, St. James and T-M-B."

In addition to Musa, Ojullu, Cook and Strom, other area runners that may contend for a top-10 individual finish include Windom's John Curley, T-M-B's Jeremy Hofflock, Adrian's Jase Pater and MCC's Schuyler Canfield.


MCW's Matt Stoffel finished sixth last year and returns to lead a Maverick team which finished second last year and is considered a strong favorite in the boys' team chase.

"The boys' team competition should be close and so will the individual races to get in the top 10 (trophies)," summed up Coach Strom. "There's going to be some good battles out there to see who claims a spot among the top 10 finishers."

Kopplow leads, while "pack" stays close

Kopplow, despite being bothered by blisters and heel problems, has been sensational in her first two meets, winning both by large margins.

While she has been stretching the distance between first and second place, the rest of the Dragon "scoring pack" has stayed close together --- each of them finishing among the individual award-winners, making sure of dominating AHS victories in the team scoring.

"We hope to keep that 'pack' mentality," summed up Olson. "We want to keep those four (Austyn Thier, Megan Sauer, Nicole Slater and Morgan Sauer) as close together as possible."

Olson has also been impressed with sixth runner senior Alyssa Sauer, who has been running close to the "four-pack" and continues to improve and run stronger.

ML/BO finished second last year in the Turkey Trot's girls' team standings and later the well-balanced Wolverines ran to an impressive third-place finish at the Class A state meet, outrunning Adrian for the first time all season.


The Wolverines, however, were hit hard by graduation and will probably not be a threat to the Dragons today.

Individually, St. James junior Cheyanne Bowers is ranked seventh among all Class A runners in the state and would appear to give Kopplow the most serious challenge.

Windom's Emily Turner, JCC's Leslie Handzus, MCC's Lexy Gleis, T-M-B's Karli Tholen, ML/B-O's Sadie Harder and the Worthington duo of Sarah Cham and Stephanie Jaycox are among the contenders -- along with Thier, Slater and the Sauer sisters -- to run near the front of the varsity girls' field today.

ML/B-O's Lydia Hildebrandt, Windom's Meredith Hentges, JCC's Megan Johnson, ML/B-O's Karina Fast and Worthington's Sade Potter are other top-notch area girls' runners that will likely challenge for a top-10 individual finish.

"Sarah, Stephanie and Sade have been leading us," Henkels said of his top three girls. "We have several others that are coming along well and we want to make a good team showing in our home meet."

With expected nice weather for this afternoon, the Prairie View Golf Links offers a good opportunity for spectators to watch a cross country meet as the runners are in sight -- both in the distance and close by -- several times from the hills near the starting line and finish chute.

What To Read Next
Get Local