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Adrian wins fourth straight Section 3A title

ADRIAN -- As expected, the state's top-ranked Class A girls' cross country squad -- the Adrian Dragons -- won their fourth consecutive Section 3A team championship Friday, posting an 11-point victory over a very good squad from Canby/Minneota/Lin...

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Les Knutson/Daily Globe The lead group of runners compete during Friday's Section 3A cross country meet in Adrian.

ADRIAN -- As expected, the state's top-ranked Class A girls' cross country squad -- the Adrian Dragons -- won their fourth consecutive Section 3A team championship Friday, posting an 11-point victory over a very good squad from Canby/Minneota/Lincoln HI.

The Dragons, who are the three-time defending state Class A champions, will now have the opportunity to race for a fourth straight state title when they run at St. Olaf College in Northfield Nov. 1

"It's great to get the chance to run at the state meet again," Adrian lead runner Leslie Stover said after the post-race awards ceremony. "We ran a good team race, and this was my best individual finish at the section meet."

It was also the last race on the home course for Stover and fellow senior Erica Thier, who have both been instrumental in the remarkable success the program has experienced over the past four seasons.

"Leslie and Erica have each had great senior seasons," exclaimed AHS head coach Doug Petersen. "They have provided a lot of leadership and have helped our young kids so much."

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Paced by Stover's second-place finish, along with a key third-place performance by eighth-grader Megan Sauer, the Dragons were able to outrun C/M/LH up front by four points, five to nine, and the next three AHS finishers -- seventh-grader Nicole Slater, Thier and eighth-grader Jordin Kopplow -- outscored the Lancers by a 41-48 margin.

That combination (2-3-10-14-17) gave Adrian a winning score of 46 points, while C/M/LH (4-5-9-15-24) finished a solid second with 57 points.

"They are the best Class A team that we have run against all season," declared Petersen about the Lancers. "They ran well against us at our invitational meet two weeks ago and they were even better today."

Finishing third in the team standings was Montevideo (99), followed by Luverne (147), Worthington (157), Murray County Central/Fulda (157), Redwood Valley (187), Pipestone Area (210), Hills-Beaver Creek/Ellsworth (213), Springfield/Cedar Mountain (247), Tracy-Milroy-Balaton (270) and Renville County West (347) in the field of 12 complete teams.

Running incomplete were BOLD, Southwest Christian, Lakeview, Westbrook-Walnut Grove/Red Rock Central and Yellow Medicine East.

Christensen, Stover, Sauer finish 1-2-3

A total of 92 runners from the 17 teams completed the 4,000-meter race, which was won by MCC senior Laura Christensen, who covered the soggy course in 15 minutes, 18.7 seconds.

"It was a good race," said Christensen after winning her seventh race of the season and getting her first section gold medal. "This was my best time on this course, and I am looking forward to running at the state meet again -- but I am already nervous."

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Stover, who finished fourth in last year's meet, stuck with Christensen the longest and claimed the silver medal with a time of 15:26.5.

Sauer, who has been a steady runner for the Dragons all fall, had a strong finish and outkicked Canby's top two runners to earn third place, clocked at 15:33.7.

"Megan sure ran a super race today," praised Stover about her younger teammate. "I am proud of her, she has been improving every meet."

"I like running up hills, better than going down," explained Sauer, who pulled away from the pack that she was competing with, going up the final long hill to the finish. "I felt pretty good and was happy about getting third."

The two C/M/LH girls -- Katherine Anundson (15:36) and Dana Kraus (15:37) finished four-five, just ahead of Montevideo's Kate Eggers (15:37.4).

PA junior Amanda Schoonhoven, who 10 days ago won the Southwest Conference individual title, finished seventh (15:39), earning another trip to the state meet.

After Montevideo's MaKena Hofer (15:41) and C/M/LH's Leah Jessen (15:42) entered the chute in places eight and nine, Slater completed the top 10 (state-qualifying) with her time of 15:44.6, as she finished strong, passing three girls up that last hill.

Just missing a state berth by 1.5 seconds was H-BC/E sophomore Whitney Wilgenburg (15:46.1), while T-M-B freshman Karli Tholen (15:51.8) and Luverne seventh-grader Makayla Hohn (15:52.0) both ran good races, finishing 12th and 13th, respectively.

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Thier (15:58.2) also bettered the 16-minute mark, as she placed 14th as Adrian's fourth runner -- one team spot ahead of Canby's fourth girl.

Adrian's depth was well-displayed when Dragon sixth and seventh runners Hunter Hieronimus (16:27) and Hailee Heitkamp (16:34) both finished ahead of Canby's fifth runner, Morgan Merritt (16:36), who finished 24th in the team scoring (26th overall).

"That was an all-time personal best for Hunter and a season-best for Hailee," noted Petersen. "We just had real solid races from all seven girls."

Kemper leads Trojans

Paced by the 19th overall (18th, team) finish of eighth-grader Lydia Kemper, Worthington finished fifth, winning a sixth-runner tiebreaker over MCC.

Kemper ran the course in 16:18.6, and her performance impressed Trojan head coach Mike Traphagen.

"Getting a top-20 finish in this section is a good accomplishment," Traphagen said. "Our girls ran very well today and all seven of them had a hand in us winning the tiebreaker to get a top-five team finish."

Backing up Kemper's lead run were Stephanie Behrens (16:42), Kaitlin Gerber (16:51), Allison Jaycox (17:23) and Deann Naab (17:34) in scoring places 26, 29, 40 and 44, respectively.

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Eighth-grader Kristen Aljets (52nd, 18:08) and freshman Kinzie Myrom (58th, 18:53) both finished ahead of MCC's fifth runner, and Aljets was in the chute 14 places before the Rebels' sixth finisher.

The Trojans ran without Stephanie Jaycox, who was sidelined with illness. Jaycox has been the second or third runner for WHS in several meets.

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