BY LES KNUTSON
ADRIAN -- Displaying exceptional balance in each race, the Murray County Central / Fulda Rebels swept the Red Rock Conference cross country team championships Monday at the KOA Campground on a cold mid-October late afternoon.
The six-team meet was moved to the campground -- where many high school cross country races were held before the Adrian Golf Course was completed in the mid-1990s -- when it was determined that the golf course was still too saturated from last week’s torrential rains.
Paced by the stellar individual first-place finish of sophomore Morgan Gehl, along with all-conference performances from eighth-grade twin sisters Ashley and Amanda Overgaaw, freshman Ryanna Schreier and seventh-grader Brylei Schreier, the Rebels repeated as girls’ team champions with a low score of 29 points (1-5-6-7-10).
Minnesota’s fourth-ranked Class A girls’ cross country runner, Gehl cruised to an easy victory with a time of 18:52.5 over the four-lap route which may have measured a bit over 5,000 meters.
Later, Mountain Lake Area senior Dalton Piotter -- who recently placed an impressive ninth in the huge Swain Invitational at Duluth -- pulled away from the 64-finisher varsity boys’ field and clocked a winning time of 18:32.2. Senior teammate Ryan Blomgren passed up MCC / F junior Justin Clarke and finished second, clocked at 18:59.2.
But, led by Clarke’s third-place finish (19:19.6) and all-conference efforts from its next four runners -- senior Nathan Everson (fourth, 19:24.5), sophomore Maverick Beckmann (fifth, 19:25.6), senior Spencer Wajer (sixth, 19:26.2) and senior Jack Pierson (10th, 19:46.2) -- the Rebels had enough balance to outrun the defending champion Wolverines by a mere four points, 28-32, to win their sixth boys conference crown in the past seven years.
“Mountain Lake beat us by three points (26-29) last year, ending a five-year streak by us,” said Rebels’ head coach Dominick Damm. “It looked like that could happen again as they, like last year, had the first two individual finishers. We were able to put four guys in a row through the chute, which really made the difference.”
MLA -- which is a combination of Mountain Lake Public, Mountain Lake Christian, Red Rock Central and Comfrey -- finished a close second on scoring places 1-2-8-9-12. MCC / Fulda senior Cameron Kresko placed 11th (20:01.0) finishing ahead of MLA’s fifth runner, helping push the Wolverines score up one more point.
“Getting four runners ahead of their third and having six guys finish before their fifth were a couple of big things for us to help offset them getting that 1-2- finish up front,” Damm said. “It was just a nice all-around team effort by both our girls and boys today.”
Southwest Christian / Edgerton was third in the boys’ team standings with 93 points, followed by Ellsworth (109) and Heron Lake-Okabena (118). Adrian was incomplete.
HL-O sophomore Paul Salentiny earned all-conference honors (Top 10) with a seventh-place finish (19:29.10), followed by MLA senior Josiah Gardiner (eighth, 19:32.3) and MLA seventh-grader Sam Pidde (ninth, 19:36.9).
SWC / E’s first runner was junior Denver Decker (13th, 20:18.2), while Ellsworth was paced by junior Robby Armstrong (15th, 20:36.3).Johnson, Bullerman 2-3 in girls’ race
While Gehl ran way ahead of the pack of the 51 varsity girl finishers, the race for second was close and the battle for fourth was even closer.
SWC / E sophomore Mikayla Johnson emerged as the conference runner-up, posting a second-place time of 21:50.3 -- nearly three minutes after Gehl finished.
Adrian junior Moriah Bullerman finished third (22:19.0), followed by MLA sophomore Anika Fast (fourth, 22:41.7), Ashley Overgaauw (22:42.6), Amanda Overgaauw (22:46.9), Ryanna Scheier (23:02.2), SWC / E sophomore Ella Veldkamp (eighth, 23:06.1), SWC / E seventh-grader Taylor Post (ninth, 23:42.8) and Brylei Schreier (23:46.8).
“That was huge for us, getting five runners in the top 10,” said Damm. “We moved up Brylei (Schreier) and she ran great in her first varsity race.”
Paced by the all-conference runs of Johnson, Veldkamp and Post, the Eagles of SWC / E were a clear team runner-up with 46 points (2-8-9-13-14), while MLA (70), Adrian (86) and HL-O (142) completed the girls’ team scoring. Ellsworth does not have a girls’ team.
MCC / F had 10 of the 20 all-conference runners, as five girls and five boys claimed that honor.Brinkman, Salentiny win junior high races
MLA seventh-graders Annika Brinkman (7:49.5) and Lydia Rete (7:51.2) raced to a 1-2 finish in the one-loop (approximately 1,700 meters) junior high girls’ race, followed in the top 10 by MCC / F seventh-graders Brealyn Damm (third, 7:55.1) and Lindsey Hause (fourth, 7:55.3), SWC / E seventh-grader Elizabeth Eisma (fifth, 7:56.7), MCC / Fulda seventh-grader Jayda Helliwell (sixth, 7:57.6), SWC / E seventh-graders Ana Veldkamp (seventh, 7:58.8) and Alexia Vander Pol (eighth, 7:58.9), MCC / F eighth-grader Alyssa Boerboom (ninth, 7:59.2) and Adrian seventh-grader Hunter Penning (10th, 7:59.3).
HL-O seventh-grader Tim Salentiny repeated as the boys’ individual junior high conference champions, winning by over 30 seconds with a time of 6:33.8.
Completing the top 10 were MLA eighth-grader Luke Klassen (second, 7:04.1), SWC / E eighth-grader Mason Hamm (third, 7:08.7), Adrian seventh-grader Bruce Farinella (fourth, 7:17.9), HL-O seventh-grader Thomas Bartosh (fifth, 7:20.9), SWC / E seventh-grader Gabe Vis (sixth, 7:37.5), Ellsworth seventh-grader Logan Bossert (seventh, 7:59.0), HL-O sixth-grader Caleb Eigenberg (eighth, 8:00.3), MCC / F seventh-grader John Olsem (ninth, 8:06.3) and Ellsworth seventh-grader Zach Onken (10th, 8:12.1).
MCC / F won the girls’ team title with 22 points (1-2-4-7-8) over SWC / E’s total of 34 (3-4-6-9-11) in team scoring places.
HL-O, paced by Salentiny, Bartosh and Eigenberg, won the boys’ junior high team championship with 23 points on team places 1-3-4-6-9, while MLA (2-5-7-8-10) was second with its score of 32.