Section 3A cross country: Luverne girls, MLA boys advance to state

BY LES KNUTSON The Globe MADISON -- With howling northwest winds chilling the air at the Madison Country Club Thursday, conditions were certainly not favorable for a high school cross country meet. Two area teams, along with five qualifying indiv...



The Globe

MADISON -- With howling northwest winds chilling the air at the Madison Country Club Thursday, conditions were certainly not favorable for a high school cross country meet.                                                

Two area teams, along with five qualifying individuals, performed well in the wind at the huge 23-Team Section 3A meet and will represent southwestern Minnesota at the Nov. 4 Class A State meet at St. Olaf College in Northfield.


Putting three runners among the first nine finishers, and backing those lead-performances with strong efforts by their next three, the state-ranked Luverne girls won their third consecutive team championship with an unofficial score of 56 (2-7-9-16-22) -- five points better than three-time runner-up Lac qui Parle Valley/Dawson-Boyd’s total of 61 (4-5-14-15-23).

Individually, Murray County Central/Fulda freshman Morgan Gehl pulled away from a pair of exceptional eighth-graders -- Tenley Nelson of Luverne and Grace Drietz of Canby/Minneota -- to impressively claim the gold medal with a stellar 5,000-meter time of 19:06.48.

Nelson (19:39.75) finished second and paced Luverne’s victory, while Drietz (19:57.9) also ran the course under 20 minutes and placed third. A pair of LQPV/D-B runners were fourth (20:15.65) and fifth (20:21.82), respectively, as the rest of the 138-finisher field became more closely-bunched.

Mountain Lake Area’s boys will also be sending a complete seven-runner team to Northfield, as the Wolverines had four runners finish among the top 15 and convincingly earned the second-place silver medals with a team score of 84 (3-6-12-14-49).

LQPV/D-B, the state's third-ranked Class A team, won the boys' team championship with 64 points (1-2-11-24-26).

Leading the MLA charge were senior Nathan Runck (third, 17:25.21) and junior Dalton Piotter (sixth, 17:41.21), while sophomore Emilio Garcia dela Cruz (13th overall, 12th team scoring, 18:02.64) and junior Ryan Blomgren (15, 14, 18:10.61) finished close together and really aided the Wolverines’ performance.

It takes more than four, however, to produce a strong team score and senior Emmanuel Fentanez (51, 49, 19:33.3) sealed the deal for MLA as the team’s fifth runner in the absence of junior Josiah Gardiner, who was attending the National FFA Convention in Indianapolis, Indiana.    

“We had a nice day,” summed up MLA head coach Kyle Blomgren in an understatement. “Every one of our kids did what they needed to do for us to be successful. Nathan and Dalton finished up among the leaders, Emilio came through with by far his best race ever, Ryan was right where we hoped he would be and Emmanuel ran within himself and really clinched it for us by finishing among the top third of all the runners, as he usually does.”


Gardiner, who has been either the team’s fourth or fifth runner in most meets this season, will be back and should help the Wolverines at the state meet, as they make their first boys’ team appearance since Chris Hiebert and Josh Metcalf led the Wolverines to eighth place at the 1991 state meet.    

LQPV-D-B senior Keiser Freetly won the boys’ individual race with a time of 17:04.53, while sophomore teammate Mike Kvaal moved past Runck and finished second (17:12.52) to lead the Eagles.

Two are runners -- Murray County Cental/Fulda sophomore Justin Clarke (10th, 17:46.9) and Adrian senior Brady Henning (11th, 17:48.18) -- each qualified individually to run at Northfield.

The two Red Rock Conference runners, were the sixth and seventh individuals (not on one of two qualifying teams -- LQPV/D-B and MLA) to enter the chute Thursday. It will be a repeat trip for Clarke, who ran at last year’s state meet as a freshman.

Canby/Minneota (8-20-21-32-47) was a distant third in the boys’ team standings with 128 points, followed by Montevideo (135), Luverne (150), MCC/F  (173), Redwood Valley (187), Pipestone Area (236), Windom Area (238), BOLD/Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart (275), Springfield/Cedar Mountain/Comfrey (323), Jackson County Central (331), Lakeview (351), Heron Lake-Okabena (355), Ortonville (362), Southwest Minnesota Christian/Edgerton (440), Yellow Medicine East (453) and Wabasso (530). Adrian, Tracy-Milroy-Balaton, MACCRAY/Renville West, Central Minnesota Christian and Hendricks were each incomplete.

There were a total of 144 finishers in the boys’ 5,000-meter race.

Nelson, Feit, VerSteeg lead Cards Nelson, who placed 10th in last year’s section race as a seventh-grader, continued her late-season surge as Luverne’s lead runner with her second-place performance Thursday. Freshman Regan Feit (seventh, 20:36.22) and eighth-grader Brooklyn VerSteeg (ninth, 20:56.97) gave the well-balanced Cardinals a trio of top-nine finishers.

While freshman Autumn Nath was somehow missed in the official results, seventh-grader Tiana Lais (17th, 21:47.92) and junior veteran Gabrielle Ferrell (23rd, 21:58.99) both came up huge for the well-balanced Cardinals, who will run as a team at state for the fifth time in the past seven years.  Nath actually finished just ahead of Lais, who had a blazing sprint to the finish and passed a couple of runners down the final stretch.


“Our girls all raced well across the board,” summed up LHS head coach Pete Janiszeski, a top-notch runner for 1995 Class A boys’ state-champion Canby/Minneota/Lincoln HI. “Conditions were tough, but each of our runners ran with confidence and did a great job of picking each other up as teammates.”

Pipestone Area, paced by senior Angel Martens -- who finished 10th overall (the fifth individual not running for either Luverne or LQPV/D-B) and returns to the state meet for a third consecutive time, edged Canby/Minneota, 113-114, for third-place in the girls’ team standings. Martens clocked a time of 21:00.59.

Finishing right behind Martens (11th overall, sixth among eligible individuals), with a fine time of 21:00.93, was Southwest Minnesota Christian/Edgerton freshman Mikayla Johnson, who will be making her first run at Northfield.

“Mikayla has had a great season and this really caps it off,” said an elated Eagles’ head coach Brian Tschetter, who has been steadily building a solid program at SWMC/E. “Her last two races have been her best, as she seems to peaking at the right time.”

MCC/F was fifth the girls’ team standings, among 20 complete teams, with 160 points, while SWMC/E was sixth with its score of 187. Wabasso was seventh (220), followed by Redwood Valley (249), Montevideo (273), T-M-B (278), HL-O (282), S/CM/C (321, JCC (365), Windom (383), BOLD/BL-H-S (385), Ortonville (397), MLA (400), Adrian (410), Hendricks (446) and YME (549). Lakeview, CMC and MACCRAY/RCW were each incomplete.

In addition to the state-qualifying individual performances of Gehl, Martens and Johnson in the girls’ race, along with the runs by Nelson, Feit, VerSteeg, Nath, Lais and Ferrell (leading Luverne’s team title), other area runners who finished among the top 25 (All-Section) were PA junior Jonna Strasser (18th, 21:48.22),  HL-O senior Cheyenne Schaffer (19, 21:48.71) and MCC/F eighth-grader Ryanna Schreier (25, 22:04.4).

Runck, Piotter, Clarke, Henning, Garcia dela Cruz and Blomgren were joined as All-Section boys runners by Luverne junior Dalton DeSollar (16th, 18:12.45), PA junior Matthew Dulas (17, 18:15.58) and Luverne sophomore Jonah Friedrichsen (19, 18:25.11).

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