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L-R: Jayden Cullen, Nick Carignan, Brady Speicher, Billy Beseman and Keeghan Hurley were out in front of the entire section meet from the starting line. Robert Williams/FOCUS

Cross Country teams dominate Section Championships

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BAGLEY -- The Perham boys and girls cross country teams continued their dominance of the Section 8A Championships Friday.

The boy's team, led by Section Champion Keeghan Hurley, earned their 11th straight state meet appearance, while the girls earned their 10th straight led by diminutive leader Brynnan Covington.

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"We're really excited about this," said Hurley. "We had a great week of training. We wanted to do a little faster times today but it just wasn't the right conditions."

In spite of the less than ideal conditions, consisting of wind chills in the teens, both teams ran right up to the front of the pack and earned a state trip next Saturday, Nov. 3 in Northfield, Minn., at St. Olaf College.

The boys will race first at the state meet at 10 a.m. The girls follow at 11 a.m.

The girls kicked off the section championships led by a third place finish from eighth grader Covington.

Covington paced Perham with a 4K finishing time of 15:50. Covington has led the team all season, quietly in a vocal aspect, but quite loudly when it comes to race time.

"I feel like I had a good year," Covington said. "I'm really excited for my team and I really feel like we're going to do good this year."

Roseau sophomore Madeline Huglen, finished in 15:34 to win the individual section title. Lake of the Woods-Rainy River's Victoria Alexander, a senior, was the runner-up in 15:35.

Huglen separated herself in the final 40 meters to win as the pair approached the final stretch in stride.

Covington's finish earned her All-Section honors, along with four other Perham girls.

Sydney Karels, sixth place, Ciarrin Covington 11th, and Lizzie Fudge 13th followed closely behind Brynnan.

Fudge, who struggled to finish the first meet of the season in Moorhead with a near bout of nausea down the backstretch, looked like a seasoned runner at the section meet finishing in a hard sprint to grab her All-Section place.

Rounding out the top seven for the girls were Mary Riestenberg in 20th, Maren Anderson 22nd, and Racole Karels 27th.

Both teams added the section titles to their Heart O' Lakes Conference titles and head into the state meet with strong hopes to improve upon last years state performances.

"The coaching staff looks at how these girls have progressed and we really believe they can run with anyone in the state right now, so we just have to focus on running what we know we are capable of and be ready to mix it up," Head Coach Jeff Morris said.

The boys, ranked No. 1 in state Class A polls the entire season, and recently garnering sole possession of the No. 1 ranking in the country-Division II, along with a top-25 all-school national ranking, showed why they have received the attention of not only the state, but also the country.

Perham led as a pack at the beginning of the section race, continued to run in a tight pack of seven at the midway point and all seven runners crossed the finish line in the top 11, leaving only four places for non-Yellowjacket runners.

Keeghan Hurley won his first Section 8A individual title running a time of 15:57. Hurley was also the HOL conference champion.

According to Coach Morris, in the crowd the boys were referred to at one point by fans as the Perham Express, putting six of their runners in the top seven and all seven in the top 11.

Finishing within 18 seconds of Hurley were Brady Speicher and Billy Beseman running 16:12 and 16:15 respectively.

The three leading Yellowjackets are all ranked individually in the top 10 at state currently at No. 3, No. 7, and No. 8 respectively.

Also finishing in the top seven were Jayden Cullen fifth, Nick Carignan sixth, and Dalton Dahms seventh.

Rounding out the top seven was Ben Sullivan in his first-ever section meet finishing 11th overall.

The entire team earned All-Section honors by all placing in the top 15.

"We are super excited about the boys," Morris said. "They have worked so hard starting all the way back in June and are ready to compete. We just keep reminding the boys to have fun and focus on running our race at state this week and let everything else take care of itself."

Such a dominating finish was not hampered by the cold, even though it did have an effect on individual runners.

"We felt really locked up, like we couldn't move from the cold," Hurley said.

The race was in all Perham hands at the midway point and their lead was never in jeopardy.

Park Rapids' Isaac Overmyer, a friend of Perham runners, made his second appearance in the middle of black jerseys with stinger P's at the finish line earning an impressive fourth place finish.

In all aspects, the boys section championship race was over before it began and has now been put in the past of what were lofty future goals that stretch back all the way to St. Olaf and last season's disappointing one-point loss to St. Cloud Cathedral.

Through the past season, the team has counted on each other to push to the precipice of regaining the state title, what will be a fourth for the Perham boys, this coming weekend.

"Cathedral's a respectable team," Hurley said. "They're really good. Nothing's ever a walk in the park. We're going to show up and see what happens. We're very excited."

"You always want to respect your competition, but it was fun," Carignan said of Friday's literal walk in the park.

"Everyone was working hard over the summer and we're really thankful that it is paying off now," Beseman said.

The appreciation for the work Morris has done in creating a program that has owned Section 8 for more than a decade is not lost on those closest to him.

"It's an honor to be this blessed to have such a great coach that consistently brings us to state every year," said Beseman.

The entire season has been about pursuit of the state championship and there is little to assuage the team should that not occur, which is unlikely.

They will face the stiffest competition from their rivals at Cathedral. While not assured, the Class A championship should boil down to a two-team race.

"I'm thinking we're going to be top two," Carignan said. "Let's hope it's number one."

The All-Section finishes also provided for a few unique awards of All-State Academic honors for six Yellowjackets.

Ciarrin Covington and Fudge earned Academic All-State honors, which requires a top 15 finish in the section and a grade point average of 3.75 or higher.

For the boys, Beseman, Carignan, Speicher, and Sullivan earned Academic All-State honors.

Also Coach of the Year honors on the boy's side went to Coach Jeff Morris, while Assistant Coach of the Year for the section went to Coach Kay Morris.

The top two teams from each section qualify for state. The Park Rapids boys and Warroad girls will join Perham in representing Section 8 at St. Olaf.

The girls team came into the year losing only last year's leader Cassie Beseman from the 2011 state team to graduation and will return to St. Olaf with six experienced runners who were part of last year's 10th place finish.

St. Cloud Cathedral will not return to defend their girls state title. Annandale and Spectrum both advanced from Section 5A.

Ciarrin Covington, Fudge and Racole Karels will combine to make 13 trips to state, five for Covington the senior and four for Karels and Fudge, both juniors.

The boy's team remains right on track from what they have been talking about for a calendar year - a return to the state championship.

The defending boys champs from Cathedral had to wait a day due to snowfall in Pierz to claim the Section 5A title, which the Crusaders did in a very Perham-like fashion.

Cathedral won the Section 5A meet with the top five runners finishing in the top six spots for a meet total of 20 points, defeating the runners-up Mora by 86 points. Cathedral owned spots second through sixth.

Charlie Lawrence of Foley won the 5A individual title. Nick Golebiowski, of Cathedral, was runner-up.

Both runners are ranked in the top 10 and should join Perham's three ranked individuals for an intense race for the state individual championship.

Lawrence in ranked No. 2, one spot above Hurley. Golebiowski is No. 5.

A fan bus/motor coach is being offered for the trip to St. Olaf Saturday.

Charge for the ride is $20 per person, which includes entrance to the meet. The coach will leave Perham at 5 a.m. on Saturday from the South parking lot of the high school and returns in time for the Welcome Home celebration at 8 p.m. at the middle school.

Registration must be complete by noon on Thursday, with payment, and at least 50 riders are needed to contract with the bus company.

Contact Lynn Lehman at the high school office for more information.

Boys Team Results

1. Perham 17

2. Park Rapids 99

3. Roseau 124

4. Pequot Lakes 154

5. Hawley/Ulen-Hitterdal 160

6. Staples-Motley 161

7. D-G-F 174

8. Bagley/Fosston 204

9. United North Central 267

10. Frazee 285

11. Warroad 321

12. Pine River-Backus 332

13. Pillager 346

14. Wadena-Deer Creek 351

15. East Grand Forks 398

16. Lake Park-Audubon 449

17. West Marshall 469

Perham results:

1. Hurley 15:57; 2. Brady Speicher 16:12; 3. Billy Beseman 16:15; 5. Jayden Cullen 16:30; 6. Nick Carignan 16:44; 7. Dalton Dahms 16:55; 11. Ben Sullivan 17:05.

Top-10

4. Isaac Overmeyer (PR) 16:22; 8. Korey Zetah (SM) 16:57; 9. Mikey Ryan (PL) 16:57; 10. Matt Neururer (Pill) 17:05.

Girls Team Results

1. Perham 53

2. Warroad 99

3. Pequot Lakes 141

4. Roseau 142

5. Park Rapids 143

6. Bagley/Fosston 177

7. United North Central 186

8. Lakes Of The Woods/Rainy River 196

9. Staples-Motley 225

10. Wadena-Deer Creek 248

11. Trek North 248

12. D-G-F 254

13. Pillager 330

14. West Marshall 380

15. Pine River-Backus 399

16. East Grand Forks 418

Perham results:

3. Brynnan Covington 15:50; 6. Sydney Karels 15:55; 11. Ciarrin Covington 16:11; 13. Lizzie Fudge 16:18; 20. Mary Riestenberg 16:42; 22. Maren Anderson 16:54; 27. Racole Karels 17:01.

Top 10

1. Madeline Huglen (ROS) 15:34 2. Victoria Alexander (LOTW/RR) 15:35; 4. Sadie Harmin (TN) 15:50; 5. Lindsay Fast (War) 15:53; 7. Sarah Harmin (TN) 15:58; 8. Marissa Carlson (B/F) 16:00; 9. Emma Schmitz (WDC) 16:08; 10. Gretta Brunelle (War) 16:11.

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Robert Williams
Robert has been the Sports Editor for the Focus since 2010 covering multiple state and national championship teams and is a mainstay at state tournaments each season covering the successful, athletic programs of Perham and New York Mills High Schools.
(218) 346-5900 x223
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