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Koller, Lietz lead Trojan boys to 1-point win at Fairmont

cross country

FAIRMONT -- In an awesome display of front-runner balance, highlighted by exceptional finishing kicks by all five scoring runners, the Worthington Trojans claimed the team title -- by one point over both Mankato East and Saint James -- at the prestigious I-90 Invitational high school cross country meet Thursday at Cedar Creek Park.

The Trojans, led by the winning individual performance of senior Adam Koller, nipped both the Cougars and Saints in an extremely closely-contested race between -- by far -- the three best squads in the 12-team event, which had a total of 156 finishing runners complete the three loops around a cornfield on the west end of the park.

When the official results were tabulated, the Trojans (1-3-9-11-28) had a low score of 52 points, while the depth-filled Mankato East squad (2-4-14-16-17) tallied 53 points, as did St. James (6-7-8-13-19).

Belle Plaine (5-10-23-41-42) was a distant fourth with 121 points, followed by Fairmont (148), Jackson County Central (166), Martin County West (174), Blue Earth Area (222), Heron Lake-Okabena (236) and North Union (Iowa) with 270 points. St. Peter and Madelia/Truman were each incomplete.

“Winning by one point takes a great effort from everyone,” beamed an elated Trojan head coach Cory Smidt. “From top to bottom, all the guys ran great today. We needed strong finishes from our scoring runners down that final stretch in the park and we sure got them.”

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Indeed, Koller -- who finished second at last year’s I-90 behind Jeff Oachs of Mankato East -- ran up front among the lead four runners from the beginning of the 5,000-meter distance. By the middle of the second trip around the cornfield, Oachs and Koller had separated from Drew Hastings of Belle Plaine and East’s Andrew Johnson.

Coming into the final stretch, Koller pulled away from Oachs and earned the gold medal by 10 seconds with a blistering time of 16:03.4 -- his best ever and the second fastest ever recorded in the race’s 29 years at Cedar Creek Park. Koller ran the course in 16:32.5 in 2018.

“An absolutely amazing race by Adam,” Smidt said. “He was tested by several other very good runners and he came out the winner -- in convincing fashion.”

Trojan teammates Christian Lietz (third, 16:21.3), Jordan Meledez (ninth, 16:49.7) and Mikele Walu (11th, 16:57.1) each had blazing finishes, passing runners prior to the chute.

Lietz moved from fifth to third with his effort, zooming past both Hastings (fifth, 16:24.3) and Johnson (fourth, 16:22.2). Meledez and Walu each improved their placing by one spot with their closing bursts to the finish.

It takes five good scores to win a meet and the Trojans got an additional extra effort from sophomore Alec Langerud (33rd overall, 28th team scoring) with his personal-record (PR) time of 18:17.9. Like Lietz, Langerud also passed two runners with his final kick, making Worthington’s one-point victory possible.

“Like I said, we needed all of the guys to come through from start to finish,” summed up Smidt. “Every single place mattered. It was a lot of fun, winning a close meet like that.”

JCC was led by Evan Paplow (30th, 26, 18:13.7), Clayton Cavness (34th, 29, 18:18.2), Mason Bobb (38, 33, 18:28.8) and Andrew Boyum (39, 34, 18:30.4).

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Leading HL-O were the Salentiny brothers, Tim (35th, 30, 18:20.2) and Paul (36, 31, 18:23.3).

The Trojans had five other runners complete the course in less than 19 minutes as freshman Micah Truesdell (40, 35, 18:31.9), senior Bryan Rameriz (49, 40, 18:55.1), freshman Charlie Brands (50, 18:56.2), freshman Alejandro Bernal (52, 18:59.0) and eighth-grader Mathias Noble (53, 18:59.6) all ran very well for WHS.

JCC’s Anderson leads area girls

The best finish by an area girl was turned by JCC sophomore Olivia Anderson, who finished 12th with a time of 20:27.6.

Worthington, which finished fifth in the team standings with 151 points (24-28-31-33-35), was paced by Sena Uli (28th overall, 24 points, 22:08.8) and Madison Schaeffer (34, 28, 22:31.8).

Completing the scoring for the Trojans were Maranda Thier (39, 31, 22:41.6), Jenna Hoffman (49, 33, 23:29.0) and Cassidy Madison (55, 35, 24:00), while Marisa Thier (57, 36, 24:07.4) and Nedoh Gyi (70, 43, 25:14.9) were the sixth and seventh varsity finishers for the Trojans.

Fairmont freshman Laura Thompson won the individual title with a stellar time of 18:53.3, followed by seventh-grade teammate Macy Hanson’s second-place run of 19:18.0.

A very balanced Belle Plaine squad (3-8-9-10-11) won the team title with 41 points, followed by Fairmont (53), Mankato East (78) and MCW (97). St. Peter (156) was sixth, five points behind the Trojans, and North Union had a total of 200 points, while five others were incomplete.

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