WORTHINGTON — An annual event since its inception in the fall of 1968, this year’s Worthington Turkey Trot high school cross country meet features a pair of state-ranked teams. The St. James boys are currently rated sixth in Class A and the combined Murray County Central and Fulda girls have climbed into the list with a ninth-place ranking.

A large field of participants is expected Thursday for each of the four races of the 52nd annual running of the meet, which begins with the junior high girls competing at 4:30 p.m. on the grassy and rolling grounds of the former Prairie View Golf Links.

Following a rolling time schedule, with each event starting soon after the completion of the previous race, the junior high boys will run the same 1,600-meter course, followed by the varsity girls and finishing with the varsity boys, completing the meet with an approximate 5:45 p.m. start time. Both varsity events will be run over a 5,000-meter course.

“We’re excited to host our own meet,” says Worthington High School cross country coach Cory Smidt. “It’s a super event with most of the teams from the area and features some exceptional individuals, who have lots of success as cross country runners.”

Among those top-performing individuals are two of the best girl runners in all of Minnesota.

MCC/F junior Morgan Gehl (second-ranked in Class A) and Fairmont sophomore Laura Thompson (fourth-ranked) raced neck-and-neck at Mountain Lake two weeks ago (Aug. 28) and will likely challenge each other up front at Prairie View.

Since their close duel, Gehl has won a race at Tracy and Thompson finished second at the 30-team Redbird Invite at Montgomery, which involved several Class AA schools.

Gehl leads a very good, but still young, Warrior squad that claimed impressive team titles at both Mountain Lake and Tracy. There are no senior girls running for MCC/F.

Worthington’s boys won at Mountain Lake, beating St. James by 18 points. The Trojans finished second at Tracy, 10 points behind Lac qui Parle Valley/Dawson-Boyd, the state’s second-ranked Class A team.

The Trojans are not ranked in Class AA, but WHS is loaded with depth and has a strong lead pack with seniors Adam Koller and Christian Lietz leading the way, followed by junior Jordan Meledez and freshman Mikele Walu.

Adrian’s Moriah Bullerman and Windom’s Gracie Bucher, along with Martin County West’s Marissa Whitehead are among the best girls who will seek to lead the second group of runners — behind Gehl and Thompson.

Seth Pierson and Troy Parulski, a pair of senior boys from St. James, are anticipated to run up front with several of the Trojans in what may be a closely-bunched lead pack. MCC/F senior Justin Clarke, who has missed the first two meets with an injury, also has the ability to mix it up with the leaders.

In addition to St. James, MCC/F, Fairmont, Adrian, Windom, MCW and Worthington, runners from Mountain Lake Area/Comfrey, Wabasso, Pipestone Area, Heron Lake-Okabena and Tracy-Milroy-Balaton complete the list of 12 competing teams who have a combined roster total of 384 possible participants.