Eagle girls win SWC CC title

MARSHALL -- Displaying the best balance of the seven squads participating in the Southwest Conference cross country meet, the Windom/Southwestern United girls claimed the team championship Tuesday at Independence Park, winning by 17 points with a...

Les Knutson/Daily Globe Pipestone Area's Ann Marie Dykstra (left) leads a pack of girls including Windom/Southwestern United's Emily Turner (middle), Jackson County Central's Leslie Handzus and Worthington's Stephanie Behrens (back) during Tuesday's Southwest Conference CC meet in Marshall.

MARSHALL -- Displaying the best balance of the seven squads participating in the Southwest Conference cross country meet, the Windom/Southwestern United girls claimed the team championship Tuesday at Independence Park, winning by 17 points with a low score of 58 (6-7-10-16-19).

The victory by the Eagles ended Marshall's five-year reign as conference champions.

"This is a good accomplishment for these young girls," declared W/SWU head coach Mike Kray. "Some of our girls did not run as well as they sometimes do, but we had others that stepped up and ran better than usual -- that's why our balance helps us out so much."

The Eagles finished first by putting all five of their scoring runners among the top 19 finishers of the 80-girl field, which was won individually by Pipestone Area junior Amanda Schoonhoven.

"Amanda ran a super race today," praised Arrow head coach Bob Nangle. "But then, she has been running very well all season. The hard workouts -- quarters -- that we did last week, may have paid some dividends for her."


Breaking away early, Schoonhoven ran her best race of the season, winning by 14 seconds as she clocked a personal record time of 15 minutes, 36.6 seconds over the relatively flat 4,000-meter course.

"That was by far my best race," said Schoonhoven, who has been a consistent front-runner at meets all season long. "I felt great, so I went out fast. I was able to take the lead, but I kept hearing people cheering for the girls behind me, so I knew that others were close."

Nobody was very close, but Jackson County Central sophomore Kinbrae Bezdicek ran an amazing race and surprised many with a strong second-place performance, clocked at 15:50.2.

"She has a big heart," praised JCC co-head coach Brad Strom. "Kinbrae has worked hard all season and came through with a tremendous race today."

"I went out faster than usual," Bezdicek explained. "When I was up among the leaders, I liked it and just stuck with the pace."

Bezdicek's strong finish moved her ahead of a pair of young Luverne runners -- eighth-grader McKayla Schilling (15:51.7) and seventh-grader Makayla Hohn (15:53.7) -- who placed third and fourth, respectively.

After Marshall senior Emily VanKeulen (15:54.8) entered the chute in fifth place, the Eagles took three of the next finish cards, giving the blue and gold a big advantage in the team race.

Leading the charge for W/SWU were freshman Merideth Hentges (15:57), sophomore Chelsea Garrison (16:13) and sophomore Emily Turner (16:20), as the trio finished sixth, seventh and 10th, respectively.


"They have been our top runners all season," noted Kray. "Merideth sets the tone and both Chelsea and Emily did a great job of staying with that pack."

Freshmen Kelcey Olson (16:36) and Amy Green (16:42) locked up the Eagle victory by placing 16th and 19th, respectively.

"That's what it takes," explained Kray. "Both Kelcey and Amy were able to stick together and stay close to our lead runners."

Running just her fifth race of the season, after being sidelined with an injury for the first five meets, sophomore Cassie Cselovszki (17:10) showed her potential as the Eagles' sixth runner, finishing 28th -- ahead of the fifth runner from four of the teams.

Emily Grandprey, a junior, was W/SWU's seventh runner, placing 35th with a time of 17:33 as she, too, finished before four of the teams' fifth runners.

Bezdicek and sophomore Leslie Handzus (eighth, 16:18) led JCC to a second-place team finish with 75 points, on scoring places 2-8-15-24-26.

Eighth-grader Angela Handzus was the third finisher for the Huskies, placing 15th with a time of 16:34.

Sophomores Morgan Johnson (16:57) and Hope Belknap (17:07) completed the JCC scoring, finishing 24th and 26th, respectively.


"This was an awesome team performance by our girls," said JCC co-head coach Kerri Kocak. "We are so proud of how they have progressed."

Kemper, Behrens lead Trojans to third place

Worthington (9-13-17-22-25) finished a solid third in the team standings with 86 points, 11 behind JCC and 18 ahead of fourth-place Marshall (104).

Luverne was fifth with 105 points, followed by Redwood Valley (109) and Pipestone Area (153).

Leading the Trojans were eighth-grader Lydia Kemper (16:19) and sophomore Stephanie Behrens (16:29) who finished ninth and 13th, respectively.

The trio of eighth-grader Stephanie Jaycox (17th, 16:38), junior Kaitlin Gerber (22nd, 16:54) and junior Allison Jaycox (25th, 16:58) completed Worthington's scoring.

"Our top five girls ran under 17 minutes today," beamed Trojan head coach Mike Traphagen. "Deann (Naab, 29th, 17:16) and Kirsten (Aljets, 33rd, 17:26) ran good races too. We are really happy with how we competed in the conference meet."

PA senior Ann Marie Dykstra (16:31) earned honorable mention all-conference honors by finishing 14th.


The top seven runners earned all-conference medals, while finishers 8-14 were tabbed honorable mention.

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