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Cross country: Whitehead, Pierson claim individual titles; Cardinals are team champs; Worthington fares well in Turkey Trot

BY LES KNUTSON The Globe WORTHINGTON -- As expected, the pre-meet favored individuals ran at the front of the pack Thursday in the 50th annual Turkey Trot high school cross country meet held on a very warm and somewhat breezy afternoon at the for...

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Murray County Central Rebels runner Morgan Gehl pushes to secure a second-place finish at the Turkey Trot on Thursday in Worthington. (Tim Middagh/The Globe)

 

BY LES KNUTSON

The Globe

WORTHINGTON -- As expected, the pre-meet favored individuals ran at the front of the pack Thursday in the 50th annual Turkey Trot high school cross country meet held on a very warm and somewhat breezy afternoon at the former Prairie View Golf Links.

While Fairmont, the defending Class A girls’ state champions, decisively won their fourth straight Turkey Trot team title, the trio of Martin County West freshman Marissa Whitehead, Murray County Central/Fulda freshman Morgan Gehl and Fairmont senior Iliana Ramon ran far ahead of the huge field of 114 finishers in the varsity girls’ race.

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Later, senior Lukas Pierson, Minnesota’s ninth-ranked Class boys’ runner, took the lead early and led his St. James Area Saints to a convincing team victory, although a trio of challenging squads also scored less than 100 points in the high-caliber meet, which featured 12 runners clocking 5,000-meter times under 18 minutes.

Worthington, paced by a strong fifth-place individual finish by sophomore Adam Koller, captured second-place honors in the boys’ competition, while the Trojan girls -- with sophomore Sena Uli finishing eighth -- finished a solid fifth in one of their best team performances of the season.

“I was pleased with how our kids performed, across the board,” said WHS head coach Cory Smidt. “This was a high-powered meet with lots of very good teams and several exceptional individuals.”

Whitehead, who finished second in last year’s Class A state meet as an eighth-grader, pulled away from Gehl and Ramon over the final 1,000 meters and entered the chute with a winning time of 19:24.7. Whitehead was ranked sixth in Class A prior to the meet.

Gehl, who was ranked fourth in Class A and had finished 16 seconds ahead of Whitehead in an earlier meet at Mountain Lake (Aug. 30), clocked a second-place time of 19:30.4 Thursday.

Ramon led Fairmont’s team victory with her third-place time of 19:44.4.

Following Ramon into the chute were Fairmont eighth-grader Laura Thompson (20:10.5), Jackson County Central senior Jessica Christoffer (20:25.2), Fairmont junior Sarah Krumholz (20:36.2), St. James senior Mackinzee Miest (20:54.2), Uli (21:28.5), Fairmont freshman Tabitha Thompson (21:49.3) and Adrian sophomore Moriah Bullerman (22:00.4) in places 4-10, respectively.

Fairmont’s winning score was 37 on team places 3-4-6-9-15. MCW was a distant second with 112 points, followed by Pipestone Area (122), MCC/F (134), Worthington (147), Heron Lake-Okabena (171), Tracy-Milroy-Balaton (175), Southwest Minnesota Christian (184), St. James Area (200), Adrian (216), JCC (226) and Mountain Lake Area (259), while Windom Area was incomplete.

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Windom freshman Grace Bucher (11th, 22:01.7), PA senior Angel Martens (12th, 22:08.9), T-M-B senior Sarita Hook (13th, 22:11.7), T-B-M sophomore Brooke Christian (14th, 22:16.9) and Worthington senior Jessica Darling (15th, 22:21.3) completed the top 15 individuals, while HL-O senior Cheyenne Schaffer (19th, 22:44.1), HL-O senior Rachel Salentiny (22nd, 23:04.0), PA freshman Jori Strasser (23rd, 23:04.3), SWMC  junior Audra Homandberg (24th, 23:07.3) and PA freshman America Diaz (25th, 23:14.1) each finished among the first 25.

Following Uli and Darling to complete Worthington’s scoring (8-14-33-38-54) were eighth-grader Jenna Hoffman (41st overall, 33rd team scoring, 24:17.5), freshman Maranda Thier (47, 38, 25:13.4) and freshman Liz Spiegelhoff (65, 54, 26:34.9).

“Our girls ran well,” declared Smidt. “Getting two individuals up in the top 15 and coming in fifth as a team are a couple of good accomplishments.”

Pierson, Runck both run under 17 minutes Pierson steadily widened the gap on MLA senior Nathan Runck as the two state-ranked runners ran well ahead of a stretched-out field of 162 finishers.

Pierson, who finished first at the 29-team Redbird Invitational in Montgomery Sept. 7, ran a blistering time of 16:26.9, while Runck -- the state’s 12th-ranked Class A runner -- also bettered the 17-minute mark with a fine time of 16:53.1.

“Those two guys up front are really good,” said Smidt about Pierson and Runck. “It was a good race between the next pack of runners.”

MCW junior Carson Kahler emerged as the winner of that group, finishing third with his time of 17:10.3, while St. James sophomore Troy Parulski was fourth (17:18.1).

Koller utilized a fast finishing effort to lead the Trojans with his fifth-place time of 17:28.1, as he held off Fairmont junior Andrew Moeller (17:32.6) down the final stretch. Koller’s classmate Christian Lietz (17:33.4) was right behind Moeller in seventh place. A pair of juniors -- Alex Knickrehm from St. James (17:33.9) and Dalton Piotter from MLA (17:42.7) -- finished eighth and ninth, while Adrian senior Brady Henning (10th, 17:49.3) claimed the final individual trophy.

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In the team scoring, St. James (1-4-8-10-13) tallied a winning point total of 36. Worthington (5-7-12-20-26) edged MLA (2-9-11-23-30) for second, 70-75.

“Our kids ran well,” said Smidt about the Trojans’ performance. “But, man is St. James ever tough all the way through its lineup.”

Fairmont was fourth in the boys’ standings with 86 points, followed by MCW (104), MCC/F (150), Windom Area (205), Pipestone Area (216), HL-O (275), JCC (284) and SWMC (319). Adrian and T-M-B were both incomplete.

Individually, MLA junior Ryan Blomgren (12th, 17:57.5) also ran the course under 18 minutes.

Worthington’s third runner was senior Jacob Prunty (13th, 18:06.6), while MCC/F sophomore Justin Clarke (15th, 18:08.6), MCC/F junior Nathan Everson (16th, 18:11.5), Worthington junior Tad Stewart (21st, 18:23.3) and MLA sophomore Emilio Garcia de la Cruz (24th, 18:29.3) were other area runners who finishing among the top 25.

Freshman Jordan Melendez (27th overall, 26 team points) was the Trojans’ fifth runner with a time of 18:31.7.

Sophomore Sawyer Schwartz (28th, 18:31.8) was T-M-B’s first finisher, while junior Matthew Dulas (30th, 18:37.5) was PA’s lead runner and freshman Cameron Alm (31st, 18:42.4) was the first Windom runner to enter the chute.

Saengosoth, Munson 1-2 in junior high girls race MLA’s Mercedes Saengosoth clocked a winning time of 7:39.4 in the girls’ 1,800-meter junior high race, while T-M-B’s Jordan Munson (7:52.6) was second. Other area girls among the top 10 were Ellie Decker of SWMC (fourth, 8:04.5), Megan Bakke of MCC/F (fifth, 8:07.4), Emma Singler of JCC (sixth, 8:10.2), Brooklyn Goelz of Pipestone (seventh, 8:12.9), and Ashley Overgaauw (ninth, 8:15.2) and Amanda Overgaauw (10th, 8:16.2), both of MCC/Fulda.

MCC/Fulda won the girls’ team title with a low tally of 33 points, while MLA was second with a score of 41 and Fairmont finished third with 49 points.

Marco Crispin of St. James won the boys’ junior high race with a time of 6:48.2 over the same course. Area runners in the top 10 included Worthington’s Charlie Brands (third, 7:03.5), MLA’s Drayton Klassen (fourth, 7:08.5), Pipestone’s Caden Strasser (sixth, 7:14.8), MLA’s Caden Swoboda (seventh, 7:17.8), JCC’s Carter Johnson (eighth, 7:24.1), Windom’s Jacob Green (ninth, 7:31.0) and MCC/F’s Ryan Engelkes (10th, 7:32.4).

MLA won the junior high boys’ team title with 54 points, followed in close fashion by Windom (80), MCC/F (80), PA (81), MCW (82) and Worthington (102).                      

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