PREP CROSS COUNTRY: Musa, Ojullu earn state CC meet medals
NORTHFIELD -- Positioning themselves well early in the race Saturday morning, the Worthington High School distance-running duo of Mubarik Musa and O.J. Ojullu each claimed impressive top-10 finishes at the Class A state cross country meet at St. ...
NORTHFIELD -- Positioning themselves well early in the race Saturday morning, the Worthington High School distance-running duo of Mubarik Musa and O.J. Ojullu each claimed impressive top-10 finishes at the Class A state cross country meet at St. Olaf College.
Musa, the defending Class A state champion, ran in second place for most of the 5,000-meter distance before being passed -- just five meters from the chute -- by Caledonia's Matt Jergenson.
Clocked at 16:00.9, Musa's third-place performance was his fourth top-three finish at a state meet and his third consecutive medalist-performance at a state cross country meet.
Ojullu, meanwhile, stayed close to Musa for much of the distance and placed 10th -- claiming the final individual medal -- with a strong finishing effort.
A senior, Ojullu ran the course in 16:20.3 and entered the chute before 151 of the other best runners in the state.
"I am really happy with how things went for me," declared Ojullu after receiving his second consecutive state cross country meet medal. "I ran pretty good and this was my best time -- so it was a nice way to finish up my high school cross country career."
Ojullu finished sixth in the 2009 state meet with a time of 16:36.7.
Ojullu was in sixth place Saturday about half way through the race as Musa was running a close second to Mound Park Academy senior Mason Ferlic and Jackson County Central senior Justin Cook was positioned in fourth place, giving Section 3 a trio of runners among the top six.
As the runners entered the woods during the final mile, Ferlic -- who finished fifth at St. Olaf (16:30.1) last year and ran a pair of close races against Musa at the 2010 state track meet in June -- pulled away from Musa and had a comfortable lead as the runners came out of the woods and headed towards the finish.
Ferlic, who held Musa off in the 3,200-meter run at Hamline but was caught by the Worthington ace -- right at the finish -- in the 1,600-meter race, did not want to leave Saturday's race to the final kick.
"I was a little scared that he (Musa) might be coming," Ferlic said. "I just let it rip. I didn't look back."
Ferlic's winning time was 15:47.6.
"Mason ran a phenomenal race," praised Musa of his top-caliber rival. "It was his day. He just ran better than me. I put everything I had into the race and it was not good enough to keep up with him at the end."
Musa, who finished 63rd at the state Class AA cross country meet as an eighth-grader while running for Park Center, improved to an impressive eighth-place finish in the same meet as a freshman in 2008.
Last year -- running for the Trojans -- he pulled away from the field with a late surge and won the Class A state title with a time of 16:01.8.
Then in June, Musa finished a close second to Ferlic in the two-mile before catching him and claiming a state meet gold medal in the mile the following day.
"Mason and I have had some good races," summed up Musa. "Hopefully, I will get to race him in track again in the spring."
Prior to that, Musa plans to run in the Nike Regionals in Sioux Falls, S.D. on Sunday, seeking a qualification for the national meet in Portland, Ore. on Dec. 4.
"I have another chance to race and see what I can do," the talented Trojan junior concluded. "But, I tell you what -- come next August, I am going to miss this guy (Ojullu). His absence will be felt as I open my senior season. It won't be the same without O.J. as my running partner."
WHS head cross country coach Ken Henkels had nothing but praise for his two stellar runners.
"For those two guys to come up here two years in a row and both place among the top 10, bringing home state medals, is really something," Henkels said. "I know that Mubarik was hoping to repeat, but that's a really difficult thing to do. Both Mubarik and O.J. had great seasons and they each capped it with great races at state."
The top-25 finishers were awarded All-State honors by the state cross country coaches association, while the top-10 finishers received state high school league medals.
Musa and Ojullu each earned both honors with their performances Saturday.