BY LES KNUTSON
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- Running the flat 5,000-meter course at Yankton Trail Park in a blistering time of 16 minutes, 46.31 seconds, Worthington High School junior Adam Koller placed an impressive sixth in a large field of 107 varsity runners at the Nike Heartland Preview cross country meet Saturday.
Koller’s front-running teammates, junior Christian Lietz (15th, 17:03.72) and senior Andrew Huber (25th, 17:22.59) also clocked impressive performances for the Trojans, leading the WHS boys to a seventh-place team finish among 11 complete high-caliber teams from all across the Upper Midwest.
Completing the scoring for the Trojans were eighth-grader Mikele Walu (66th, 18:28.26) and sophomore Jordan Melendez (69th, 18:32.73) who finished just four seconds apart. Freshman Alec Langerud (85th, 19:18.37) was Worthington’s sixth runner, also running the course well under 20 minutes.
Worthington’s top five -- Koller, Lietz, Huber, Walu and Melendez -- finished in places 3-11-21-52-54 in the team scoring for a total of 141, finishing within eight points of fourth-place Willmar (133). In between the Cardinals and Trojans were a pair of South Dakota teams, Rapid City Stevens (138) and Harrisburg (140).
“We did great,” summed up Trojans’ head coach Cory Smidt. “Our top three all finished among the top 25 runners and we came close to getting a top-four team finish, which is really good in a big meet like this.”
Minnetonka won the team title with 50 points, while Lincoln (Nebraska) North Star was second with 74 and Sioux Falls Washington (117) finished third. Sioux Falls O’Gorman was eighth (163), followed by Sturgis Brown (214), Tea Area (268) and Rapid City Central (285), as the Trojans outran four good-sized South Dakota schools.
Braden Peters of West Central, South Dakota, won the individual title with a time of 16:02.93.
In the varsity girls’ race, Worthington junior Sena Uli placed 55th with a time of 21:27.96, while the rest of the Trojans competed in the Junior Varsity race over the same course, notching a 10th-place team finish (out of 13 complete teams) with 279 points.
Freshman Jenna Hoffman (46th overall, 33rd team scoring, 23:30.49), sophomore Maranda Their (70, 49, 24:38.25), sophomore Nydoh Gyi (82, 55, 25:07.80) and eighth-grader Erkinesh Bonnett (110, 69, 26:47.12) and eighth-grader Root Gebremariam (117, 73, 27:19.01) were the five scoring runners for the Trojans.
There were 107 finishers in the varsity girls’ race and 144 runners completed the JV race.