By LES KNUTSON
MOUNTAIN LAKE --- Running in ideal early-season weather conditions on the challenging hills of the Mountain Lake Golf Course Wednesday morning (Aug. 29), a total of 354 cross country runners, representing 14 high school teams, completed the four races of the Paul Metcalf Invitational.
The varsity girls’ race featured three state-ranked individuals --- who became spread out far ahead of the rest of the 103-finisher field --- and the young Luverne Cardinals impressively claimed the team title with a mere 39 points (2-4-8-12-13).
Later, the varsity boys’ event was closely-contested up front as a total of 131 runners finished the 5,000-meter race and all 15 individual medalists clocked times under18 minutes.
Worthington, paced by exceptional lead-run performances from junior Andrew Koller (first, 16:44.8), senior Andrew Huber (third, 17:01.3) and junior Christian Lietz (seventh, 17:20.7), brought home the team trophy with its winning score of 61 (1-3-7-18-32).
Murray County Central / Fulda sophomore Morgan Gehl, ranked fourth in the Class A girls pre-season poll by the State Coaches Association, took the lead early and won convincingly with an exceptional 5,000-meter time of 18:17.0.
Luverne freshman Tenley Nelson, ranked fifth, gave chase all the way and finished second with a sparkling time of 18:35.4, while Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial / Nicollet senior MaKenna Thurston, ranked sixth, was a solid third with her time of 19:03.7.
The race for fourth was closely-challenged, but Luverne sophomore Regan Feit (19:50.6) pulled away from Fairmont’s top two runners. Cardinal freshman Brooklyn VerSteeg (20:30.6) also utilized a strong finish and placed eighth.
Adrian junior Moriah Bullerman (ninth, 20:39.7), Worthington junior Sena Uli (11th, 21:17.1), Luverne eighth-graders Elizabeth Wagner and Tiana Lais (tied for 12th, 21:34.6) and Windom Area sophomore Gracie Bucher (14th, 21:42.4) were the area’s other medalists.
Fairmont (5-6-10-15-28) was second in the girls’ team standings with 64 points, followed by Martin County West (82), MCC / Fulda (102), Worthington (135), United South Central (170), LC-WM / N (174), Mountain Lake Area (194) and Adrian (199). Windom, Jackson County Central, Heron Lake-Okabena, Tracy-Milroy-Balaton and Madelia were all incomplete.
Completing the scoring for Worthington were freshman Jenna Hoffman (23:07.3) and sophomores Maranda Thier (23:13.1), Nedoh Gyi (24:52.1) and Madison Schaeffer (26:07.8) in team places 20, 21, 37 and 46, respectively.
MLA’s Piotter challenges Koller; LHS claims second
Koller, Huber and Red Rock Central senior Dalton Piotter (running for MLA) alternated at the front of the boys’ race until Koller took the lead at the beginning of the third mile. Piotter stayed close and finished strong as he clocked a fine second-place time of 16:46.0.
“That was a close race,” declared Worthington head coach Cory Smidt about the challenge between Koller, Piotter and Huber. “Getting those two numbers (1 and 3) were huge in our team victory, but Christian (7), Tad Stewart (18) and Alec Langerud (32) came through big-time, too.”
Stewart (18:18.9), Langerud (19:19.1), Davis Moore (37th, 19:30.3) and Blaine Doeden (43rd, 19:42.3) completed Worthington’s top seven, all finishing well under 20 minutes. Stewart, Moore and Doeden are seniors, while Langerud is a freshman.
Other area individuals who finished among the top 15 were Luverne senior Dalton DeSollar (sixth, 17:18.9), MLA senior Ryan Blomgren (ninth, 17:30.1), Luverne junior Brayden Tofteland (10th, 17:30.6), Luverne senior Shane Berning (12th, 17:48.8) and Windom senior Gil Parent (15th, 17:56.8).
Paced by DeSollar, Tofteland and Berning, Luverne tallied 71 points (6-10-12-17-26) and edged MCW (72) for second place among the boys’ complete teams. Fairmont was fourth with 84 points, followed by MCC / Fulda (109), MLA (136), Windom (153), HL-O (233) and JCC (263). T-M-B, USC, Madelia, Lake Crystal and Adrian were each incomplete.
Nelson, Walu win junior high races
Luverne seventh-grader Makena Nelson won the 2,000-meter girls’ junior high race with her time of 8:23.7, while seventh-grade teammate Jenna DeBates (second, 8:32.4) and LHS eighth-grader Grace Ingebretson (fifth, 8:43.5) also ran at the front of the pack of 50 finishers.
Two MCC / Fulda runners, seventh-grader Brylei Schreier (fourth, 8:34.7) and eighth-grader Megan Bakke (sixth, 8:57.3), also ran the course under nine minutes.
Worthington eighth-grader Mikele Walu finished first (by 20 seconds) in the junior high boys’ race over the same course as he clocked a time of 7:07.5.
Completing the top six --- among a total of 70 finishers --- were MLA seventh-grader Sam Pidde (7:27.8), Worthington eighth-grader Charlie Brands (7:33.2), MLA seventh-grader Kody Wassman (7:34.9), HL-O seventh-grader Tim Salentiny (7:35.4) and Windom eighth-grader Jacob Green (7:41.1).
Luverne won the girls’ team title with an adjusted score of 20 and Worthington’s adjusted score of 47 was the best among the boys, 16 points better than Windom’s total of 63.