BY LES KNUTSON
SLAYTON -- Placing six runners among the first 10 finishers Thursday, the Worthington High School Trojan boys claimed a dominating team victory in the Rebel Invitational on a revamped 5,000-meter cross country course on the long hills of the Slayton Country Club.
While WHS won in convincing fashion with a low score of 26 (1-3-6-7-9), the varsity girls’ team chase was closely-contested between the host Murray County Central/Fulda Rebels and the Pipestone Area Arrows, who each had all five scoring runners finish among the top 19.
The Rebels, led the phenomenal first-place performance of sophomore Morgan Gehl and exceptional finishes by eighth-grade twin sisters Ashley and Amanda Overgaauw, were able to win the team title by a mere two points, 43-45.
Gehl ran the extended 5,000-meter distance in 18:58, entering the chute more than two minutes ahead of Martin County West’s Marissa Whitehead (21:05), who ran clearly in second place before Worthington junior Sena Uli moved up progressively and finished third with her time of 21:42.
In the boys’ race, Trojan junior Adam Koller took a slim lead just before the mile mark and gradually extended the spread. Although closely challenged by MCW’s Carson Kahler for much of the race, Koller pulled away late and claimed individual honors with a time of 17:34.
Kahler finished second (17:51) before WHS junior Christian Lietz finished very strong and captured third, clocked at 18:01.
The race for fourth was extremely close at the finish, as MCC / F’s Justin Clarke (18:15) edged MCW’s Kolton Larson (18:15) and Worthington’s Andrew Huber (18:16). Both Huber and Larson had run up front early with Koller and Kahler.
Worthington eighth-grader Mikele Walu (18:31) held off MCW’s Zane Borchardt (18:33) for seventh place and Trojans’ Jordan Melendez (18:38) and Tad Stewart (18:39) finished ninth and 10th, respectively, giving WHS six of the Rebel Invite T-Shirts awarded to the top-10 finishers.
“Our top six guys all ran a great team race,” summed up Trojans’ head coach Cory Smidt. “Andrew and Adam got up front early, Christian moved up several places as the race progressed and Mikele, Jordan and Tad each ran steady from start to finish. It was just a super team race by our guys.”
MCW (2-4-8-11-22) was second in the boys’ team standings with 47 points, while MCC / F displayed nice balance (5-13-14-16-17) and finished third with 65 points.
Pipestone Area (98), Jackson County Central (129) and Tracy-Milroy-Balaton (156) also had complete boys’ team scores, while Heron Lake-Okabena, Ellsworth and Adrian were each incomplete.
In the girls’ race, Gehl moved in front quickly and continued to widen the gap, while Whitehead settled into second. The race for third was more challenging, but Uli emerged as the leader of that pack, followed by Adrian junior Moriah Bullerman (fourth, 21:56) and PA senior Jonna Strasser (fifth, 22:25).
Ashley Overgaauw (sixth, 22:44) and Amanda Overgaauw (seventh, 22:44) were followed by PA runners Brooklyn Goelz (eighth, 22:53) and Kelly Pape (ninth, 22:57) before T-M-B’s Annaka Hook (23:11) finished 10th, claiming the final T-Shirt award.
In the team scoring, the Rebels (1-6-7-13-16) had enough punch up front (14 points between their first three) to offset the balance of the Arrows (5-8-9-11-12), who had all five scoring runners ahead of MCC / F’s fourth.
“It was close,” summed up PA head coach Erin Clauson-Gordon. “We moved up some young girls and they ran very well. I liked how balanced we were, getting five runners up among the leaders.”
MCW finished third in the girls’ team standings with 59 points, followed by Worthington (93) and Adrian (111). T-M-B, JCC and HL-O were incomplete.
JCC was led by Olivia Anderson (12th overall, 23:21), while Skylar Fisher (16th overall, 23:44) was HL-O’s first runner.
Worthington’s scoring runners (after Uli) were Jenna Hoffman (23:59), Maranda Thier (24:39), Madison Schaeffer (24:46) and Cassidy Madison (25:16) in team places 17-22-24-27, respectively.
In the boys’ race, PA was paced by Seth Lingen (12th, 19:04), HL-O’s lead runner was Paul Salentiny (19th, 20:06), T-M-B’s first guy was Sawyer Schwartz (20th, 20:10), JCC was led by Clayton Cavness (22nd, 20:12), Ellsworth’s first runner was Robby Armstrong (28th, 20:38) and Adrian’s first varsity boy was Cole Domeyer (51st, 24:20).Bobb, Bakke, Salentiny, Scheier win JV, JH titles
JCC’s Mason Bobb won the boys’ junior varsity race over the same 5,000-meter course, clocking a time of 20:14, while a trio of Worthington runners -- Alejandro Bernal (20:34), Charlie Brands (20:55) and Mathias Noble (21:00) -- claimed the next three places.
MCC/F’s Megan Bakke (23:35) was the first girl to complete the JV race, followed by four Pipestone runners, as America Diaz (23:42), Naomi Wallace (23:56), Hope Wallace (24:59) and Zoe Velde (25:22) led the Arrows to a commanding team victory.
HL-O seventh-grader Tim Salentiny moved up from fifth to first during the extended 1,600-meter boys’ junior high race, winning by five seconds with a time of 6:15. T-M-B’s Quinn Landherr (third, 6:23), JCC’s Carter Johnson (6:25) and PA’s Bode Bruns (6:29) also finished among the first five.
MCC/F’s Brylei Schreier was the girls’ junior high winner over the same course, running the distance in 7 minutes flat. PA’s Raegan Tibbs (second, 7:12) and Reina Guardado (fourth, 7:17), along with MCC / F’s Brealyn Damm (fifth, 7:20) were other area runners who placed near the front.