Windom girls shine; Trojans' Walu wins on big kick
WORTHINGTON -- Trojan Mikele Walu had to give it everything he had to win the three-team boys varsity cross country race in Worthington Thursday, and Windom Area girls impressively placed runners in positions 1, 2 and 4 in the girls varsity competition.
Walu trailed Redwood Valley’s Jayson Peyerl by a big margin for much of Thursday’s race on a cool day at Prairie View, but he made a big kick to win in the end, finishing with a 16:11.70 time compared to the Cardinal’s 16:13.60.
Peyerl passed Walu after the first mile, then pulled away. Walu explained moments after the race that he made a mistake in letting his Cardinal rival get so much of a lead on him, but Walu has a great kick and he used it to pass Peyerl about a hundred yards from the finish line while continuing to sprint to the chute.
“I just tried to use everything I had -- use everything I’ve got,” Walu said.
On the girls side of varsity, Windom Area’s Gracie Bucher -- like Walu a state qualifier from last season -- won with ease, coming in at 19:55.50. It was a sizable improvement from her previous meet, which was in the 21:13 category.
“The weather was amazing. And we have some young girls who really push me at practice. That really helps a lot,” said Bucher. “I could feel it (that a good run was in store) at practice the last week. Our young ones really stepped up in this meet.”
Finishing second was the Eagles’ Kaylee Walklin, in 20:32.60. Walklin is an eighth-grader who participated in volleyball last year, moved over to cross country when the 2020 volleyball season was pushed back to spring, and says now that even if volleyball is moved back to fall (which might happen when the Minnesota State High School League meets Monday to discuss the option) she’s likely to stay with the running team.
“I like cross country, so I’m probably going to stick with it. Once I tried it, I really liked cross country,” she said.
In her first two races this year, she won at the junior high level. Thursday’s was her first varsity race this fall.
Varsity races are 5,000 meters, which is much farther than the 1,600-meter junior high races -- a fact Walklin was well aware of.
“I knew when I hit the one-mile and two-mile, I knew where I was,” Walklin said after Thursday’s event. “And I tried to stay with the person ahead of me. And I tried to finish as well as I could.”
Running behind Bucher helps greatly.
“She’s very motivated and a very hard worker at practice. It shows at the race how hard she works,” Walklin said.
Fourth place in the girls varsity standings was Windom Area’s Jadyn Wormstadt, who covered the course in 21:49.80. Redwood Valley’s Catherine Buffie was third (21:29.50). Worthington’s first finisher was Madison Schaefer, who was seventh in 22:04.70. Teammate Maranda Thier was eighth (22:30.50). The Trojans’ Nicole Wede was 12th in 23:17.10 while Nedoh Gyi (13th, 23:19.90) and Olivia Hayenga (15th, 23:44.10) also finished high.
Worthington got a third-place finish from Alec Langerud in the boys varsity race. His time of 16:55.20 was better than fourth-place Mason Clark of Redwood Valley (17:13.50) and fifth-place Cameron Alm of Windom Area (17:14.50). The Trojans’ Filmon Wolday and Ofbeka Morke finished 6-7 with clockings of 17:17.40 and 17:21.60, respectively. Worthington’s Charles Brands was 12th in 18:11.20.
Worthington finished 1-2 in the boys 4K junior varsity race with Mason Bobb (17:04.70) and Jordan Melendez (18:19.50). Windom Area’s Arianna Boldt won the girls JV race in 23:16:50, and Worthington’s best time was logged by Olivia Barber (9th, 26:25.20).
The boys junior high winner was Nick Espenson of Windom Area, who ran the 1,600-meter race in 6:55.60. Worthington finished 3-5 with Austin Kinser (7:02.90) and Cash Jacobs (7:23.30). Windom Area’s Alivia Letcher won the junior high girls race in 7:48.30. Worthington finished 2-3-4 with Lauryn Ahlers (7:57.00), Kenadie Thiner (7:57.10) and Morgan Becker (7:58.60).