CROSS COUNTRY INDIVIDUALS: Worthington's Mubarik Musa wins Class A title

NORTHFIELD -- An hour after he was done racing, Worthington's Mubarik Musa finally began to enjoy his state cross country title. From the time he crossed the finish line until that point, the sophomore was so fatigued he could barely walk, let al...

Worthington's Ojullu
Michael Brauer/daily Globe Worthington's O.J. Ojullu (right) runs away from a group of competitors during Saturday's state cross country meet at St. Olaf College in Northfield.

NORTHFIELD -- An hour after he was done racing, Worthington's Mubarik Musa finally began to enjoy his state cross country title.

From the time he crossed the finish line until that point, the sophomore was so fatigued he could barely walk, let alone hold a conversation.

"I couldn't even talk," he said. "People were saying 'congratulations' and 'good job,' but my eyes weren't even looking, they were closed the whole time.

"That just shows I really ran a hard race."

Musa's effort was good enough for a time of 16 minutes, 1.8 seconds and a Class A individual championship on Saturday -- the first WHS runner to win state cross country in 64 years.


Sixty minutes after the fact, Musa was back to his normal self.

"My stomach is no longer hurting," he said, "my head doesn't hurt anymore, I'm not dizzy...nothing."

He felt good enough, at least, to stand and pose with a group of girls who wanted their picture taken with him -- fans he didn't even know.

"We just wanted to say that you are amazing," one said to him.

"I'm not A-Rod, you know?" he laughed, after the group moved on.

Maybe not.

But Alex Rodriguez isn't undefeated this season...Musa is.

Much like every other meet this year, he finished well ahead of the rest of the field on Saturday.


But unlike any of his other races, he wasn't showcasing the same smooth, calm stride spectators have grown used to seeing from him down the final stretch.

This time, with clenched fists and a grimace, Musa was using every ounce of energy he had. He needed it to outkick Blake's Paul Kouillik in the final half mile.

"That guy, he's really good. I know him from the track," Musa said. "When I knew he was with me, I didn't go right out after it. I stayed with him the whole race, then from 800 meters to go I decided to go all out."

Musa finished so hard, in fact, that he had put a good 100 meters between himself and Kouillik by the time he crossed the finish line with both arms triumphantly raised.

He was done 17-and-a-half seconds before Kouillik.

"Once I knew that he could no longer catch me, I figured I just had to push as fast as I could," Musa said.

The 16:01 Musa clocked was the third fastest time overall, trailing just two runners in Class AA.

"16:01, that's really a fair race," he said. "You can't say it was an extremely good race, it was OK."


Musa had wanted to beat the 15:55 he churned out at the previous state meet, when he was running for Park Center in AA.

He took eighth place, though. He'll take this year's slower time if it means a championship.

"Since I won, I'm happy with it," he said.

He has good reason to be.

No Trojan has brought home hardware from the state cross country meet since Jim Halma won it in 1945.

That was back when the course barely reached two miles, a far cry from the 3.12 miles (5 km) required of the boys nowadays.

The only other WHS champion was Willis Rohweder, who placed first the year before Halma did.

If Musa has his way, Worthington won't have to wait another 64 years before a Trojan wins state again.


He still has two years left to run, and he plans on making them count.

What will it take to beat him?

"They'd have to tear down Mount Everest," Musa said with a grin.

Ojullu brings home another medal for WHS

Worthington's O.J. Ojullu will be the first to admit that he's looking forward to basketball season.

But Ojullu had some work to do on the cross country course, first.

The junior overtook half a dozen runners in the final 800 meters to clock a 16:36.7 and grab a sixth-place medal at the Class A state meet on Saturday.

"I know he wants to play basketball and he's looking forward to that, but he knew this was the last race of the season; this is it," his teammate Musa said. "He's an athlete, he just went after it."


Ojullu and Musa, who won the meet, were the only two representatives from Worthington to qualify for the state race.

They made sure WHS went two-for-two in the medal count on Saturday.

"I was thinking about just running my race," Ojullu said. "I didn't go out too crazy, I stayed calm. I always need to start slow, because I want to have that kick at the end of the race."

He sure showed a kick on Saturday.

As he made his way into the race's final clearing, Ojullu was still a couple of spots away from earning a top-10 medal.

"This was a tough course because once you get to the two-mile mark you go uphill just about the whole time," he said. "I felt like I was dying up there."

Ojullu looked fresh at the end, though, passing six runners and crossing the finish line at close to a dead sprint.

One thing is for sure -- come hoops time, the youngster should be in pretty good shape.


"I'm not even tired right now," Ojullu said afterwards. "I think I could have pushed myself a little bit harder."

Hoflock represents T-M-B

In just his second year running cross country and his first state meet appearance, Tracy-Milroy-Balaton's Jeremy Hoflock entered the chute in 88th place with a time of 18:03.6 on Saturday.

"He came out for cross country last year, and in his second year he improved dramatically," T-M-B cross country coach Marie Hanson said.

Hoflock, a junior, qualified for state by placing seventh at the Section 3A meet.

Adrian's Kopplow gathers more hardware

Jordin Kopplow doesn't usually have anyone running beside her late in the race.

But at the Class A Girls State Cross Country Meet on Saturday, Adrian's lead runner knew things would be different. She's been there before, after all.

"Everyone starts out so fast," she said. "And there's always someone running next to you."

Kopplow took eighth, following up a 35th place effort last year and a 12th place finish in 2007.

But no matter how many times she runs at state, she said it always takes a little time to adjust.

"Right when I started out I was like, 'Wow, I'm really tired,'" she said. "You get cut off so bad at that first turn."

The toughest part of the race, she said?

The two mile mark.

"Just right up there at the top of the hill," Kopplow said. "You've got to push it right up that hill and just keep going forward and maintaining your pace. Just go as hard as you can."

Adrian finished the meet in fourth place as a team. The Dragons had won the team title four years in a row from 2005 to 2008.

None of their top seven runners will graduate this year.

Luverne's lone Cardinal holds her own

Luverne's Anna Tofteland had never lined up against so many other cross country runners before.

"It was intimidating," the eighth-grader said after making her Class A state meet debut on Saturday. "It was kind of scary at first. I was on the outside lane, so I had to get out really fast."

Tofteland held her ground, timing a 16:23.9 -- good enough for 54th place overall.

"We wanted her to go out and get a good start," her coach Pete Janiszeski said. "I thought she raced pretty well, all and all."

Tofteland was the only Luverne runner who qualified for the state meet.

"It's not quite as much fun when you're by yourself," Janiszeski said. "Our goal next year is to get the team back."

What To Read Next
Get Local