Adrian girls seek sixth straight conference title today at Slayton

WORTHINGTON -- While the team championships at today's Red Rock Conference cross country meet will likely easily be won by a pair of state-ranked squads from Adrian, the individual races and the battles for conference team runner-up honors may be...

WORTHINGTON -- While the team championships at today's Red Rock Conference cross country meet will likely easily be won by a pair of state-ranked squads from Adrian, the individual races and the battles for conference team runner-up honors may be closely-contested.

The six-team meet will be held at the Slayton Country Club this afternoon, starting with the junior high races at 4:30 p.m.

There will not be separate junior varsity races, meaning that the combined varsity-jayvee girls' 4,000-meter event could begin as early as 4:45.

The longer 5,000-meter varsity-junior varsity boys' race should get underway by about 5:15.

Tuesday, the same time schedule will apply to the Southwest Conference meet, which will be run at Independence Park in Marshall.


Jackson County Central appears to be a strong favorite to win the boys' title in the seven-school conference meet, while a very balanced Windom/Southwestern squad is favored to win the girls' team championship.

Three-time defending Class A state champion Adrian is the five-time defending Red Rock Conference girls' team champion, while the Dragon boys -- currently ranked fifth in Class A -- will be seeking their fourth consecutive league team title.

In the SWC, Marshall won its eighth straight boys' team championship in 2007 and the Tiger girls won the team title for the fifth straight year.

But throughout this season, Marshall has not looked nearly as strong, but Worthington head coach Mike Traphagen sums it up by saying:

"Both team races should be very competitive this year. There may be two new champions, but I would never count Marshall out."

Tracy-Milroy-Balaton will host the Camden Conference meet Tuesday at the Tracy Country Club.

T-M-B senior Ryan Tholen is a strong favorite to repeat his individual boys' title, while an improving Panther squad looks to move up in the boys' team standings.

Tholen's freshman sister Karli may run among the leaders in the girls' race.


Christensen, Reyne look to lead Red Rock field

In the Red Rock Conference, Murray County Central senior Laura Christensen has been enjoying a super season and is the favorite to win the girls' individual race, which has been won by Adrian runners each of the past five seasons.

Adrian's Morgan Lynn won last year's race, while Christensen outkicked Adrian's Jordin Kopplow for second.

Dragon Leslie Stover finished fourth in 2007, after winning the conference race in 2006.

Lynn won the gold medal three straight times before that.

"Laura has been running strong in every meet and she is ready to race on the home course again," says her coach Dominick Damm. "There will be lots of competition at the front from several Adrian girls, as well as from Petra Nelson and Whitney Wilgenburg,"

Joining Stover as a leading front-runner contender from Adrian are fellow senior Erica Thier, along with eighth-graders Kopplow and Megan Sauer, and seventh-grade sensation Nicole Slater.

Nelson, a junior, is Mountain Lake/Butterfield-Odin's lead runner and has consistently come on strong at season's end. She finished fifth in last year's conference race.


Wilgenburg, a sophomore, is a dual fall-sport athlete (she also plays volleyball) for Hills-Beaver Creek/Ellsworth. She has experienced great success in her rookie season, having clocked some sparkling times and winning several races.

Wilgenburg ran close to Christensen and Stover for much of the race at the 80-finisher Adrian Invitational last week, ending up fifth, nine seconds ahead of Slater.

Teamwise, ML/B-O and MCC could have a good battle for second.

"We hope that we can compete well and challenge ML/B-O," says Damm. "We will need real good runs for our fourth and fifth girls."

H-BC/E will likely also field a complete team, while Southwest Christian and Westbrook-Walnut Grove/Red Rock Central will have runners competing individually.

SW Christian's Megan DeRuyter will be among the runners competing for all-conference medals by finishing in the top 10.

In the boys' race, Adrian junior Nate Reyne is a solid favorite to repeat as the individual champion, coming off an impressive first-place at last week's Adrian Invite.

Dragon teammates Jordan Pater and Chris Reisdorfer, along with H-BC/E's Halden Van Wyhe will be among the top challengers.


Other individuals that may run near the front include SW Christian's Corey Vis and Josh Bobb, MCC's Mitchell Hart and Mark Bau, H-BC/E's Tyler Paulsen and Dustin Verhey, and Adrian's Kyle Henning and Brett Springman.

H-BC/E is favored to claim second in the team standings.

Trojans will be at full strength for SW meet

Worthington has had a fine campaign with both squads this fall, and the Trojans look to improve upon last year's conference team finishes.

In '07, the boys placed fifth and the girls were sixth.

Windom/SWU, led by freshman Meredith Hentges, has finished ahead of every other team in the conference at one meet or another this fall.

The Eagles have great balance and are favored to end Marshall's five-year reign as girls' team champions.

JCC also had solid balance, although the Huskies do not have a lead runner as talented as Hentges or fellow Eagles Emily Turner, Kelcey Olson and Chelsea Garrison.


Worthington has good balance too, and the Trojans welcome juniors Allison Jaycox and Kaitlin Gerber back to the line-up after illness and injury, respectively.

Those two will be joined by eighth-grader Lydia Kemper, sophomore Stephanie Behrens, eighth-grader Stephanie Jaycox and junior Deann Naab as the Trojans expected top six.

"Kaitlin has recovered well from her injury (knee) and ran well in several tough workouts last week," noted Traphagen. "We will be at full strength and hope to move up in the team standings this year."

Luverne, Redwood Valley, Marshall and Pipestone Area will be the other teams competing Tuesday.

Traphagen looks for PA sophomore Amanda Schoonhoven to be among the runners competing for individual honors.

JCC boys are solid

JCC, led by it top trio of Matt Kocak, Justin Cook and Marc Strom, has run well all season.

The Huskies finished third two years ago and were league runners-up last year.


Winning the conference this season has been one of JCC's goals.

"We certainly run to well and win the Southwest," says JCC head coach Brad Strom. "We have had a good year so far, but have been gearing up for the conference and, of course, we want to peak at the section meet next week."

Kocak, a junior, finished third in last year's meet, while Strom and Cook, both sophomores, were fourth and 13th, respectively in 2007.

Marshall's Ian Wyffels and Redwood's Nate Thooft are expected to challenge the Jackson trio for individual honors, along with Worthington rookie sophomore O.J. Ojullu.

"O.J. should be in the hunt for the individual title," says Traphagen. "Teamwise, so much depends upon how our third, fourth and fifth guys perform. We are going to need a break through race from at least one of them."

Junior Aaron Grafing is Worthington's second runner and is a strong candidate for a top 10 finish, while juniors Kreguto Okello and Michael Patten, along with sophomore Ian Fleace, have usually been the Trojans' third, fourth and fifth runners, respectively.

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