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Cross country: Nelson, Runck win at Adrian

BY LES KNUTSON The Globe ADRIAN -- A sure sign of the middle of October is the annual running of the huge Dragon Invitational high school cross country meet, held on the sloping hills of the Adrian Golf Course. Competing Tuesday afternoon a cool,...

BY LES KNUTSON

The Globe

ADRIAN -- A sure sign of the middle of October is the annual running of the huge Dragon Invitational high school cross country meet, held on the sloping hills of the Adrian Golf Course.

Competing Tuesday afternoon a cool, overcast day with conditions nearly perfect for distance running, a total of 115 girls, representing 16 teams, completed the 5,000-meter varsity course. A bit later, the exact same number of runners entered the chute after finishing the varsity boys’ race, with 19 of them covering the 3.1 miles in less than 18 minutes.

In a highly-competitive girls’ race, which included perennial powers Marshall and Luverne, the top eight finishers all ran the distance under 20 minutes -- which is an exceptional performance.

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Two of those girls -- Luverne eighth-grader Tenley Nelson (18:42.0) and Murray County Central/Fulda freshman Morgan Gehl (18:43.1) -- did even better than that, as they ran well in  front of the pack and completed the grueling course in less than 19 minutes.

“That was some race between those two,” exclaimed Worthington High School cross country coach Cory Smidt in reference to Nelson and Gehl. “It’s not very often that girls run 5,000 meters faster than 19 minutes. Those two runners are two of the best in the state.”

While Nelson had a little more kick at the finish, both her and Gehl will likely continue to catch the attention of the state pollsters as they move up in the Class A rankings. Gehl was ranked 10th in this week’s poll, while Nelson was unranked -- yet.

“Tenley has been getting stronger and has really run well all season,” praised LHS coach Pete Janiszeski. “It was a great race between her and Morgan Gehl, who is an impressive distance runner.”

Marshall junior Kaia Sueker finished third, 30 seconds after Gehl, with a time of 19:13.7, followed closely by Tiger teammates Morgan Radel (19:15.2) and Bellamy Sukalski (19:17.3).

Marshall, ranked eighth in Class AA, won the girls’ team title with a low score of 29 (3-4-5-8-9), while Luverne (1-7-13-26-27) was second with 74 points. The Cardinals were ranked 11th among Class A teams at the beginning of the week.

Canby/Minneota, paced by the sixth-place finish of Grace Drietz (19:39.1), was third in the girls’ team standings with 98 points. Pipestone Area was fourth with 163 points, followed by MCC/F (180), Redwood Valley (213), Worthington (213), Tracy-Milroy-Balaton (216), Southwest Minnesota Christian/Edgerton (224), Jackson County Central (264), Adrian (265), Windom Area (268), Springfield/Cedar Mountain (281), Ortonville (353), Mountain Lake Area (450) and MACCRAY/Renville County West (incomplete).

Area girls, besides Nelson and Gehl, who finished among the top 25 were Luverne freshman Regan Feit (seventh, 19:41.3), JCC senior Jessica Christoffer (10th, 20:15.6), Luverne eighth-grader Brooklynn VerSteeg (13th, 20:32.4), PA senior Angel Martens (14th, 20:34.6), SWC/E freshman Mikayla Johnson (16th, 20:55.7), Adrian sophomore Moriah Bullerman (17th, 20:57.8), WA freshman Gracie Bucher (19th, 21:02.9), T-M-B senior Sarita Hook (20th, 21:14.7) and Worthington sophomore Sena Uli (23rd, 21:25.9).

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Completing Worthington’s scoring were senior Jessica Darling (31st, 21:47.7), freshman Maranda Thier (41st overall, 37 points, 22:28.3), eighth-grader Jenna Hoffman (49, 45, 22:49.5) and freshman Liz Spiegelhoff (86, 77, 24:54.3). Senior Maria Contreras (87, 78, 24:54.6) and freshman Brynne White (96, 85, 26:20.2) were the sixth and seventh Trojan finishers.

Koller, Henning, Piotter run well Mountain Lake Area’s Nathan Runck, a Red Rock Central senior, continued his impressive fall campaign with another first-place individual performance Tuesday. Runck pulled away from Marshall’s top two runners and clocked a winning time of 16:47.6.

Worthington sophomore Adam Koller (fourth, 17:12.6), Adrian senior Brady Henning (sixth, 17:21.8), MLA junior Dalton Piotter (seventh, 17:22.7) and MCC/F sophomore Justin Clarke (eighth, 17:24.8) were other area individuals who finished among the leaders.

Marshall’s boys (2-3-8-9-13) completed a varsity sweep by winning the team trophy with a low score of 35 points.

Worthington (4-10-16-23-36) finished a solid second with 89 points, followed by MLA (108), RV (135), MCC/F (139), C/M (142), Luverne (164), WA (227), PA (238), S/CM (259), Ortonville (306), JCC (322) and MACCRAY/RCW (362). Adrian, T-M-B and SWC/E were each incomplete.

Sophomore Christian Lietz finished 11th overall (10th in the team scoring) with a fine time of 17:38.4 to help the Trojans secure second place. Junior Andrew Huber (17th, 16, 17:56.8), freshman Jordan Melendez (24, 23, 18:12.6) and senior Jacob Prunty (39, 36, 18:38.8) completed Worthington’ scoring, while juniors Tad Stewart (40, 37, 18:41.4) and Blaine Doeden (44, 40, 18:46.7) each ran well as the sixth and seventh Trojan finishers.

“Our guys had a super day,” praised Smidt. “We had three boys under 18 minutes and our top seven were each well under 19.”

Other area boys who finished among the top 25 included MLA’s Ryan Blomgren (18th, 17:57.5), Luverne’s Shane Berning (19th, 17:59.0) and PA’s Matthew Dulas (21st, 18:08.7), all juniors.

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Worthington seventh-grader Mikele Walu clocked a winning 5,000-meter time of 18:34.4 in the junior varsity boys’ race, while Luverne sophomore Claire Baustian (22:37.4) finished first among junior varsity girls. MCC/F’s Megan Bakke won the 2,100-meter junior high girls’ race with a time of 8:53.5.

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