Cross-Country: Perham boys extend state appearance streak to a full decade as Section 8A champions
In a field of 118 racers at the Section 8A cross-country meet, the #2-ranked, defending state champion Yellowjackets placed all seven runners in the top 14, including the top five scoring runners all in the top 10, to run away, quite literally, with the section title and their 10th consecutive trip to the state meet.
The victory keeps an amazing span of dominance going for the Perham boys team. Pack leader Brady Speicher directed this year's section effort.
"Everyone of us are leaders," Speicher said. "We don't really need to have one leader."
"(Brady's) set the tone for us nearly every race," Head Coach Jeff Morris said.
Speicher has been the lead runner in every race this season, but one. He will be counted upon at state to keep the pace for the pack in Perham's quest to win the state championship for a second year in a row.
The Yellowjackets indeed take a pack mentality--a wolf pack, according to the theme of their pursuit of the state title.
"We have a quote on our team," Morris said. "The strength of the pack is the wolf and the strength of the wolf is the pack."
"Hopefully, we'll be able to repeat; it'll be tough," Speicher said. "We just want to keep the legacy going."
That legacy is the by-product of extensive training in-season and off-season and the leadership of Head Coach Jeff Morris, who was named the Section 8A coach of the year.
"A lot of it has to go to Coach Morris," Speicher said. "He gives us the best training in the state."
The cross-country team keeps a string of recent Perham high school threats to state titles, and wins in those contests, in every season going.
Regardless of the actual state finish, they will put up more Minnesota State High School League Challenge Cup points. Perham's state frequency has kept the Yellowjackets the top Challenge Cup public school, in the state, in their class, for the last half of a decade.
"We've got a great shot," Morris said. "It's going to come down to a four-team race. St. Cloud Cathedral is ranked number one. Blake and Minnehaha Academy are really good. It's going to be tight, but the way we looked today we're going to have a good shot."
Speicher led the race early setting a brisk pace in pleasant conditions given the nearing of November. Temperatures were a bit over 40 degrees and the sun was out. Rain south of Bagley stayed away creeping nearer after the race.
"I went out pretty quick and Bryon caught me and I stayed with him to the two-mile mark and he's a good runner," said Speicher. "Hopefully, I'll be able to keep up with him at state next week," Speicher said.
Nevis runner Byron Schuldt was the only runner in front of Speicher winning the Section Individual title in a Medalist time of 16:06.43. Speicher had Schuldt in view at the finish finishing in 16:19.32.
The top 10 runners qualify for state individually and top 15 earn All-Section honors.
Perham's dominance in the top ten left few spots for other school's competitors to qualify.
Isaac Overymyer of Park Rapids finished fifth; Wesley Davies finished sixth, representing the host school, Bagley/Fosston; Michael Ryan of Pequot Lakes finished ninth to join Schuldt and the Yellowjackets at state.
The Yellowjacket pack automatically qualified as team winners of the Section but ate up half the individual qualifying spots in the process.
Nick Carignan's tenth place finish kept Pillager's Matt Neururer out of a state spot by over five seconds.
Behind Speicher, a junior, in second, - 16:19, was sophomore Jayden Cullen in fourth - 16:46; junior Dalton Dahms in seventh - 16:59; freshman Billy Beseman in ninth - 17:00; junior Carignan in 10th - 17:11; sophomore Chris Knutson in 12th - 17:37 and junior Mark Huebsch in 14th - 17:41, giving all seven Perham runners All-Section honors.
Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton finished a distant second behind Perham in the team race. Perham totaled only 26 points. The Rebels finished with 66. Staples-Motley was third with 88.
The Morris household received another accolade in recognition of their coaching dominance when Kay Morris, the 2010 State Cross-Country Assistant Coach of the Year, was named this season's Section 8A Assistant Coach of the Year.
The state meet will be held in its usual location, in Northfield, at St. Olaf College, Saturday, Nov. 5. The boys race is scheduled for 2 p.m.