BY LES KNUTSON
BUTTERFIELD -- Luverne freshman Tenley Nelson and sophomore teammate Regan Feit, a pair of state-ranked high school girls’ cross country runners, each ran up front Tuesday at the 10-team St. James Area Invitational at Voss Park near Butterfield.
Nelson’s impressive first-place performance and Feit’s strong third-place effort, along with five other top-17 finishes, gave the Cardinals -- currently ranked third in Minnesota Class A -- a dominant team victory with a score of 42 points (1-3-11-13-14), finishing well ahead of 13th-ranked Fairmont’s score of 68 (5-6-12-22-23).
Luverne put seven runners in the chute before Fairmont’s fourth runner finished.
Nelson cruised alone at the front of the pack of 97 finishers, clocking an extraordinary time of 18:21.0 over the flat 5,000-meter course. Nelson is the state’s seventh-ranked Class A girl.
Feit, who is ranked 14th, gave eighth-ranked MaKenna Thurston (a senior, running for Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial / Nicollet) a great challenge for second. Thurston (19:01.3) finished just in front of Feit (19:03.0), as those two were well ahead of Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop’s Grace Feeder’s fourth-place time of 19:47.3.
Completing Luverne’s balanced scoring were eighth-graders Tiana Lais (11th, 20:47.5) and Elizabeth Wagner (13th, 21:12.4), along with seventh-grader Makena Nelson (14th, 21:12.5). Freshman Brooklyn VerSteeg (15th, 21:18.4) and seventh-grader Jenna DeBates (17th, 21:35.8) gave the Cardinals exceptional depth as the team’s sixth and seventh runners.
Mountain Lake Area, led by Anika Fast (19th, 21:44.2), finished fifth in the team standings with 151 points, following third-place LC-WM/N (89) and fourth-place G-F-W (145). Scoring below the Wolverines were St. James Area (164), Minnesota Valley Lutheran (170), Springfield / Cedar Mountain (174) and Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s (188). Madelia was incomplete.
The host St. James Area Saints, ranked sixth in the latest Class A boys’ team rankings, had the first three finishers Tuesday and claimed a convincing victory with an exceptional score of 25 (1-2-3-9-10).
SJA’s Troy Parulski (16:56.9) edged teammate Seth Pierson (16:57.5) for individual honors.
MLA’s Dalton Piotter (17:01.7) finished fourth, right on the heels on SJA’s Alex Knickrehm (17:00.6).
Luverne’s Brayden Tofteland (17:15.5) was sixth, leading the Cardinals to a fine third-place finish with 73 points (6-12-13-20-22). Fairmont was second in the boys’ team standings with 64 points, while MLA was fourth with 94 (4-11-18-27-34).
MLA’s Ryan Blomgren (11th, 17:42.5), Luverne’s Shane Berning (12th, 17:43.4), Luverne’s Austin Winter (13th, 17:52.7), MLA’s Josiah Gardiner (18th, 18:28.7) and Luverne’s Jonah Friedrichsen (20th, 18:40.0) were other area runners who placed in the top-20 among a total of 104 finishers.
Other teams with complete scores included S/CM (fifth, 150), MVL (sixth, 165), SESM (seventh, 179) and LC-WM/N (eighth, 228). G-F-W and Madelia were both incomplete.
As they have been doing all fall, MLA seventh-graders Sam Pidde (8:17.6) and Kody Wassman (8:34.2) finished first and second, respectively, in the 2,000-meter junior high boys’ race, while teammate Luke Klassen finished eighth (8:56.7).
Luverne’s Ryan Fick was fourth (8:47.5), while teammates Ashton Eitreim (seventh, 8:56.4), Camden Janiszeski (10th, 9:00.4), Carsen Tofteland (11th, 9:01.8) and Camden Hoven (13th, 9:05.4) gave the young Cardinal boys a strong second-place team finish with 45 points, just one point shy of SJA’s winning score of 44.
MLA’s Tiegan Meyer (second, 10:09.3), Annika Brinkman (third, 10:15.4) and Lydia Rete (seventh, 10:43.5) each finished among the leaders in the junior high girls’ race over the same course. Katelyn Ojeda-Callejas of SJA clocked a winning time of 9:48.0.