Girls cross country: Luverne places fourth at State CC meet

LES KNUTSON NORTHFIELD -- With ideal early-November weather conditions Saturday morning, 11 area high school girls' cross country runners competed in the Class A State Meet at St. Olaf College.Seven of those girls were running for the two-time Se...


NORTHFIELD -- With ideal early-November weather conditions Saturday morning, 11 area high school girls’ cross country runners competed in the Class A State Meet at St. Olaf College.
Seven of those girls were running for the two-time Section 3A Luverne Cardinals, while four others qualified as individuals after running well enough to advance at this year’s highly-competitive section meet.
At Northfield, competing on a scenic 5,000-meter course, a trio of area runners earned All-State (Top 25) honors, and one of them -- Fulda eighth-grader Morgan Gehl, running for Murray County Central -- walked on the post-race award’s stage after racing to an impressive eighth-place individual finish.
In the team competition, featuring 16 qualifiers --- two from each of Minnesota’s eight sections, Luverne repeated its fourth-place finish, scoring 148 points, improving its 2015 score of 168 by 20 points.
For Gehl, who placed 61st at St. Olaf as a seventh-grade rookie in 2015, her performance Saturday was especially gratifying as she capped a remarkable all-around fall campaign with her best race yet.
“I thought that Morgan ran a very smart and steady race,” said MCC/Fulda head coach Dominick Damm. “She ran as evenly-paced as possible and came on with a strong finish, moving all the way up to eighth by powering up the final hill and really sprinting to the finish.”
Gehl summed it up by simply saying:
“It was pretty awesome. I ran as hard as I could when I got to the last hill and was relieved when I crossed the line. My experience here last year helped me know what to expect this time.”
Gehl, who finished fourth in the Section 3 Meet at Luverne nine days earlier (Oct. 27) was the first Section 3A girl to enter the chute with her eighth-place time of 19:25.5 --- just 1.4 seconds from fifth and a mere 1.8 seconds ahead of 12th, as eight times were wedged between 19:24.1 and 19:27.3
“That’s how close runners often finish to each other at the state meet,” said Damm. “I was thinking that she could make the Top 15 and was hoping that she could get a medal (Top 10), which she did by really kicking it in at the end.”
Damm said that Gehl was very focused in practice leading up to the state meet after finishing fourth in the section. “Morgan’s goal was to win the section,” he said. “When she wasn’t able to do that, she wanted to be the first section finisher at the state meet. She had her game-face on all week during practice and prepared well for Saturday’s race.”
Gehl passed the mile mark in 5:58.7 and was in 23rd place. She moved up to 11th by 3,200 meters (12:22.6) and was 12th coming out of the woods --- with about 500 meters to go --- before passing four girls during her final stretch run.

Schandelmeier earns All-State for fifth time One of the girls that Gehl passed near the end was Luverne senior Madison Schandelmeier, who won her third straight Section 3A race in impressive fashion and was in ninth place coming out of the woods Saturday.
Schandelmeier finished 12th (19:27.3) earning an amazing fifth consecutive All-State distinction. She was 18th last year after finishing ninth, sixth and second the previous three years. Schandelmeier placed 28th overall as a seventh-grader in 2011, missing All-State by just three places.
“She has been so consistent and so impressive over a spectacular six-year career,” LHS head coach Pete Janiszeski said about Schandelmeier’s steady contributions. “Her leadership has meant a lot to our program, as our younger runners have looked up to her example and learned to do things the right way.”
Backing up Schandelmeier’s outstanding performance Saturday was eighth-grade teammate Regan Feit, who placed 23rd --- among a total of 176 finishers --- with a time of 19:43.6.
Feit finished 44th last year with a time of 20:14.8.
“Regan’s had some big-meet experience in both cross country and track,” said Janiszeski. “For her to compete that well and earn All-State honors is really great.”
Paced by the lead runs of Schandelmeier and Feit, who placed fourth and seventh, respectively, among the 112 runners representing the 16 teams, the Cardinals (4-7-32-40-65) finished fourth in the team standings with 148 points, nipping Pelican Rapids (149) by one point, while finishing just 21 points from third-place Annandale’s total of 127.
Fairmont (8-9-10-18-36) edged Perham (1-4-14-19-47), 84-86, for the team title.
“Fairmont ran lights out,” Janiszeski said. “So did Perham. We were hoping to get third and get up on the podium, but there are about 160 Class A girls teams in the state and finishing fourth is something to be proud about.”
Completing the scoring for the Cardinals were seventh-graders Tenley Nelson (65th overall, 32nd team scoring, 20:27.4) and Brooklyn VerSteeg (79, 40, 20:37.9), along with eighth-grader Cassie Flanagan (121, 65, 21:12.6). Sophomore Gabrielle Ferrell (125, 68, 21:15.4) and eighth-grader Autumn Nath (132, 71, 21:22.2) were close behind Flanagan, as the well-balanced Cardinals were the third team to have seven runners cross the finish line.
Howard Lake-Waverly was sixth in the team standings with 170 points, followed by Lac qui Parle Valley/Dawson-Boyd (193), Eden Valley-Watkins (214), Minnehaha Academy (230), Trinity School at River Ridge (240), Lanesboro/Fillmore Central (257), Lake City (273), Belle Plaine (300), Ely (332), West Central (345) and Proctor (420).

Wallace, Green, Martens repesented 3A South Redwood Valley’s Lauren Karnitz, Ortonville’s Carissa Vanderwal and two runners --- Emily Gillingham and McKenzie Ruether --- from Canby/Minneota were qualifying individual runners from the northern half of the section, while Gehl, Windom senior Christianna Green and a pair of Pipestone Area runners (senior Livia Wallace and junior Angel Martens) represented the southern half.
Wallace, who finished 36th last year with a time of 20:04.6, finished close to the top third Saturday, clocking a 60th-place time of 20:25.1 -- as the sixth-best finisher among the 22 competing Section 3A runners.
Green was running in her fourth consecutive state meet, placing 50th, 22nd and 73rd in her previous races. She was 73rd again Saturday, running the course in 20:34.4, moving up 18 places in the final 3,400 meters. Green was 91st at the mile mark with a time of 6:15.8.
Martens finished 70th in 2015 with a time of 20:36.2 She wasn’t able to match that this year, placing 128th, clocked at 21:16.2. She was 89th at the 1,600-meter mark with a time of 6:15.5.      
Tierney Wolfgram, an eighth-grader from Minnesota Math and Science Academy, won Saturday’s race by 45 seconds with a time of 18:23.6. Martin County West eighth-grader Marisssa Whitehead utilized a blazing finish to claim second, clocked at 19:08.6, edging third-place finisher Perham senior Brynnan Covington (19:08.8).                                                                                              

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