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Gehl, Beckmann claim firsts in Red Rock Conference cross country

cross country

SLAYTON -- In contrasting styles, a pair of Murray County Central/Fulda cross country runners claimed Red Rock Conference individual titles Monday afternoon at the Slayton Country Club, while the two team championships were also decided in different fashion.

On a crisp mid-October day with sunshine, very little wind and temperatures in the mid-50s, MCC/F’s Morgan Gehl -- as expected -- finished far in front of the girls’ field of 44 finishers, winning her fourth consecutive cross country gold medal with a stellar time of 18:04 over the 5,000-meter course.

Five of her teammates finished among the Top 10, earning All-Conference honors and leading the state-ranked (third in Class A) Warriors to a dominating team championship with a mere 19 points (1-2-3-6-7).

Later, the young Mountain Lake Area/Comfrey Wolverines utilized exceptional balance to win their second boys’ team championship in the past three years, dethroning MCC/F which had won last year’s team crown with a senior-loaded squad.

The Wolverines had five All-Conference runners and put six finishers among the first 12 as they came up with a low score of 35 points (4-6-7-8-10), bettering MCC/F’s second-place total of 46 (1-5-9-11-20).

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“We are really pleased with how well these young boys have come along this season,” declared MLA/C cross country coach Kyle Blomgren. “It’s been rewarding to see the progress they have made as a group and to be blessed with as much quality senior leadership as we have on this squad. Today’s conference championship was a team victory from top to bottom.”

While the Wolverines were favored to win the team championship, the race for individual honors in the boys’ race was wide open.

As the 5,000-meter event unfolded, a pack of six quickly emerged in the front, led by four Wolverines. Early in the second mile, MCC/F junior Maverick Beckmann took the lead and continually stretched the distance, eventually winning his first conference championship by 19 seconds with his time of 17:45.

“I knew it was going to be a close and competitive race,” said Beckmann, who had been his team’s lead runner through the first five meets of the season before senior teammate Lukas Stapek paced the Warriors over the last three races. “I just tried to keep up with the leaders and after I caught Lukas, I was able to surge on the hills and get the lead alone. I felt great and hills were, for sure, my strong suit today.”

While Beckmann was pulling away, the Salentiny brothers -- of Heron Lake-Okabena -- were progressively moving up, all the way from seventh and eighth to second and third.

With a superior kick, junior Paul Salentiny claimed second (18:04) while eighth-grader Tim Salentiny finished a close third (18:05).

“Paul and Tim ran smart and steady,” praised HL-O coach Gary Hildebrandt about his two lead runners. “They stuck together and separated themselves from the rest of the lead pack, but couldn’t catch Beckmann, who ran very well from start to finish.”

MLA/C freshman Kaleb Eickhoff (18:27) edged Stapek (18:28) in a close sprint to the finish for fourth place, while Wolverine eighth-grade teammate Kody Wassman (18:42) claimed sixth.

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Sophomores Caden Swoboda (seventh, 18:58) and Cayden LaPointe (eighth, 19:03), along with seventh-grader Zach Klassen (10th, 19:09) sealed the victory for the young Wolverines.

MCC/F sophomore Isaiah Kathman (ninth, 19:05) also earned All-Conference honors.

HL-O, led by the stellar runs of the Salentiny brothers, finished third in the boys’ team standings with 64 points (2-3-16-19-24), while Southwest Minnesota Christian/Edgerton was fourth with 85 points (13-14-17-19-23). Leading the Eagles were freshmen Ethan Sas (14th, 20:00) and Mason Hamm (15th, 20:03).

Adrian, led by freshman Dylan Graff (13th, 19:52), was incomplete, as was Ellsworth, paced by senior Robby Armstrong (16th, 20:03).

Overgaauw twins help trigger Warrior girls

While Gehl was cruising with her smooth strides up front, MCC/F’s freshman twin sisters -- Ashley (20:10) and Amanda Overgaauw (20:12) -- were a clear second and third, respectively, running together from beginning to end.

After Adrian senior Moriah Bullerman (fourth, 20:55) and SWC/E eighth-grader Taylor Post (fifth, 21:15) finished, a trio of Warriors -- eighth-grader Brylei Schreier (sixth, 21:22), sophomore Ella Stapek (seventh, 21:42) and junior Josie Harms (eighth, 21:50) -- captured the next three places.

SWC/E juniors Ella Veldkamp (ninth, 21:54) and Mara Fick (10th, 22:10) secured the final two All-Conference medals, while teammates Tabitha Van Essen (22:12) and Mikayla Johnson (22:30) -- both juniors -- completed the Eagles’ well-balanced (5-9-10-11-12) second-place team finish with 47 points.

MLA/C, led by junior Anika Fast (13th, 22:40), edged Adrian by one point (90-91) for third place. HL-O, paced by sophomore Skylar Fisher (36th, 26:32), was incomplete. Ellsworth did not have any girls run in the varsity race.

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Daniels, Kirchner win junior high races

MCC/F runners Lily Daniels and Zach Kirchner earned individual gold medals in the 1,680-meter junior high races.

Daniels, an eighth-grader, clocked a time of 7:14 to lead the Warriors to the team title with 29 points (1-3-4-8-13), bettering MLA/C’s score of 33 (2-5-6-9-10). Jacey Klassen of MLA/C (7:33), Lindsey Hause of MCC/F (7:43), Jayda Hellewell of MCC/F (7:52) and Brooklyn Fisher of HL-O (7:53) completed the top five junior high girls’ finishers.

Kirchner (6:43) and Caleb Appel (6:45), a pair of seventh-grade classmates, finished first and second in the junior high boys’ race, followed in the top five by Preston Xayachak of MLA/C (6:48) and John Olsem (6:50) and Caleb Ethridge (6:50) both of MCC/F.

MLA/C was the only complete junior high boys’ team, winning the event with a perfect score of 15.

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