Hurley sixth, Perham Boys seventh, Girls 35th at Griak Gold races
FALCON HEIGHTS — Consistent rainfall made a harrowing run all the more perilous at this year’s Roy Griak Invitational, a showcase of the best of the best in cross country from high school to the Division I college level from multiple states and Canada.
Both Perham teams ran in the Gold High School races, which are filled with elite teams, 51 in the boys’ field, 50 in the girls. Wayzata took home the team titles in both races.
The Perham boys matched last year’s best-ever result in the Larry Zirgibel Gold race finishing in seventh place.
The girls placed 35th in the Gary Wilson Gold race, one of their best finishes since the 2009-10 state runner-up team. That team finished 14th with current team members contributing.
Racole Karels, as an eighth grader, was second on the team behind one of Perham’s best Maddie McClellan. This past weekend, McClellan led the North Dakota State Women’s cross country team to a fifth place finish out of 15 Division I teams at the Stanford Invitational in Stanford, Calif. McClellan was fifth overall at the Griak Gold in 2009.
Lizzie Fudge, also an eighth-grader in 2009, was Perham’s top finisher Saturday in 101st place. Mary Riestenberg also ran as an eighth grader in 2009.
Keeghan Hurley led the boys with Perham’s best result of the day: a sixth place overall finish in a race full of the country’s best runners.
The start of the Griak has to be witnessed in person. Nearly 500 racers start from a spread out line and converge to the course in a stampeding pack. Hurley was at the front, which is the only way to win the Griak - get up front and try to stay there.
“It was really fast, really muddy,” Hurley said. “I was mixing it up for the first two miles; then, they gapped me and I just couldn’t make up that gap.”
Hurley was in a small pack of 10 runners at the mile mark and the two-mile mark in a frantic pace set by the leaders to avoid running in the scrum of the huge throng behind them.
Leading the way was Class AA state runner-up from 2012 Obsa Ali of Richfield. Ali is the No. 12-ranked high school runner in the national Saucony Elite 50 and he proved why opening a gap down the finish line tunnel for the victory in 15:30.8.
Hurley and Ali led the early pack with matching split times of 2:58 at the 1K mark and 9:16 at the 3K mark. The top eight runners slowly spread out, with only seconds between each other, for the final 2K of the race. Hurley’s sixth place time was 15:48.3. The top three runners were separated by three seconds - the top 10 by 30 seconds.
“It went out a little bit hot, but you have to,” said Hurley. “Otherwise, you’ll get gapped and have no chance. I’d rather have a chance than not at all.”
Hurley improved from last year’s 12th place finish jumping six spots this year.
“I’m showing improvement and that’s all I have to do,” Hurley said.
As a team, Perham’s seventh place overall finish was bumped by a third place overall finish among Minnesota schools behind Edina and Wayzata (No. 17-Saucony Elite 50). Wayzata is ranked No. 14 in the nation by XC Nation. Perham is ranked No. 23 in pre-race rankings from Sept. 22. In the Minnesota state 2A poll, Wayzata is No. 1, Edina is No. 3, which shows where the No. 1 ranked Class A Yellowjackets are in terms of domination in their class this year. They could, legitimately, be battling head-to-head with the best 2A schools in the state, in fact, they are.
“I told the guys after the race that we beat four out of five times from last year’s top five and that if our four-five, over the next six weeks, can close about a 20 second gap, we will be neck and neck with Edina and Wayzata,” Head Coach Jeff Morris said. “So, that is the focus - to run with the best period - and to do that our goal is to maximize every day of practice and working on closing gaps and tightening our pack at the next meet.”
Jayden Cullen and Billy Beseman, both ranked in Minnesota Class A, had impressive top 50 finishes, Cullen in 42nd and Beseman in 46th with times of 16.42.6 and 16:45.8 respectively. Ben Sullivan placed 120th 17:22.7 in his first race at 100 percent after recovering, yet still running, with a leg injury. Sullivan felt good after the race despite having to battle the wet surface and jostling of the crowd of runners.
“The conditions were not as bad as I thought they would be,” he said. “A little muddy.”
Chris Knutson was just behind in fifth place for Perham with an overall mark of 17:25.9 in 127th place. Kanyon Edvall ran 18:01.6 in 249th place Leighton Covington ran 18:23.4 in 314th place. Freshman Carson Speicher, in his first Griak, placed 327th in 18:27.5. Tanner Monson placed 373rd in 18:49.9. Adam Sirra, another freshman, finished 384th in 18:56.9. There were 494 racers in the boys’ Gold race.
The girls’ race is something different than the typical 4K races all season, in the fact that the Griak presents a 5K format. This has sparked some conversation statewide about making a change to 5K permanently for high school races, with talk on both sides as to leveling the field between boys and girls and also some comments on whether or not making the race a 5K would deter some students from participating at the Class A level and in some smaller schools. There is no time to think about any of that at the Griak as the girls’ race starts out in the same kind of stampede as the boys.
Senior Lizzie Fudge led Perham ousting Brynnan Covington from her usual spot in the front of the Yellowjacket pack. Covington was right behind Fudge. The pair finished within a dozen spots of each other: Fudge in 101st and Covington 113th. Fudge’s time was 20:24.01 - Covington’s 20:35.3.
Jordyn Colter, a junior from Cherry Creek, Colo., ran away with the girls’ race finishing in a smooth 17:47.2. Anna French, Minnesota’s No. 1 Class 2A runner from Wayzata finished second in 17:59.9. Jenna Truedson of Bemidji, who Perham team members have seen win two of their races this season, placed sixth in a time of 18:35.9.
Sydney Karels placed 208th in 21.24.7; Jenna Wegscheid, making her first varsity appearance in perhaps the most difficult race of the year, was an impressive fourth on the team and 262nd overall with a time of 21.54.2.
“Jenna Wegscheid ran in the four-spot for us today and showed some toughness that adds to the whole group,” said Morris.
Riestenberg placed 278th, in tandem with teammate Racole Karels in 279th with times four-hundredths apart, 22:00.4 and 22:00.9. Kayla Hodgden placed 379th in 23:17.0; Allie Hoeft was 412th in 24:02.0; Brooklyn Koetke finished in 433rd with a time of 25:05.1, and Emma Sweere finished 457th in 27:37.2.
“These girls really believe they can compete, and were excited to be placed in the Gold race,” Morris said. “We really believe we can compete with the best and look forward to moving our girls’ future up the pack. What is exciting is to see our three through seven runners closing the gap on our top two.”
Seventh grade phenom Caitlin Covington competed at the Mustang Invite on Friday and finished third in a time of 16:46.1 at Chippewa Middle School in North Oaks. Covington led the Perham JV to a 13th place finish out of 20 teams in the Gold Race of the Mustang Invite
Covinfton did not run at Griak and will return to the varsity lineup this week at the home meet in Perham on Thursday, Oct. 3.
Perham is expecting the largest field ever for their home meet with 20 teams scheduled to race.
“It will be fun for our kids to get to run in front of their home town, so please come out and support the boys who are ranked No. 1 in the state and the girls who are ranked No. 3 in the state,” Morris said.
Perham Invitational Race schedule
Thursday, Oct. 3
5th and 6th graders - 4:00 p.m.
JH - 4:15 p.m. girls
JH - 4:45 p.m. boys
Varsity/JV girls - 5:15 p.m.
Varsity/JV boys - 5:45 p.m.
Awards - 6:15 p.m.
Roy Griak Invitational - Les Bolstad Golf Course, Falcon Heights, Minn.
Weather: 450’s, light rain, muddy course
Perham Boys finishes:
1 (6th overall) Keeghan Hurley 15:49
2 Jayden Cullen 16:43
3 Billy Beseman 16:46
4 Ben Sullivan 17:23
5 Chris Knutson 17:26
6 Kanyon Edvall 18:02
7 Leighton Covington 18:24
Perham Girls finishes:
1 Lizzie Fudge 20:25
2 Brynnan Covington 20:36
3 Sydney Karels 21:25
4 Jenna Wegscheid 21:55
5 Mary Riestenberg 22:01
6 Racole Karels 22:01
7 Kayla Hodgden 23:17
Results for all races at this year's Griak can be found by clicking here.
3 Caitlin Covington, 16:46.1
39 Hailey Wegscheid, 18:14.8
56 Marlee Curtis, 18:41.0
104 Amber Thompson, 20:24.7
106 Lourdes Anderson, 20:31.9
116 Victoria Paridon, 21:21.4
118 Aimee Christopherson, 21:40.2