Hurley, Yellowjackets back up season success with two titles
NORTHFIELD — In late August, Keeghan Hurley made a bold claim that he was going out to win every race and the state title this year.
Aside from the Griak Invitational, which was won by Class 2A state champion Ali Obsa, Hurley did just that and in convincing fashion Saturday afternoon.
“It was such a special moment for the team to repeat; it’s just a perfect day,” Hurley said. “It was so much fun to end it that way.”
For the Perham Yellowjackets, it was a perfect season.
“I’m so happy for him,” 2012 captain Brady Speicher said. “He’s been working for this since he moved here and it’s been his dream. He’s done every little thing and he deserves it.”
If Hurley was challenged by anyone this season, it was his own teammates and Park Rapids’ Isaac Overmyer. Overmyer consistently kept as close to anyone in Section 8, who was not already on the Perham roster, in one of the most dominating regular season performances seen in Perham in the past decade.
From the first meet at Moorhead, where Hurley defended his 2012 title to the state meet, the finish line was his alone.
At St. Olaf, the final straightaway is a dead sprint after climbing the final hill. When Keeghan ran over that final slope, there was a 14-second gap in time before runner-up Shane Streich, of Waseca, appeared.
Streich was third in 2012 at St. Olaf, finishing two places in front of Hurley, a finish that chapped the Perham senior all year leading up to this season’s campaign. Hurley put in the time, miles and mental preparation to make sure that did not happen in 2013.
“It was fun,” Head Coach Jeff Morris said. “He told me before the race, ‘I’m going to go out hard but make sure not to go wide open early on.’ I said, ‘Yep, you’re a senior it’s your time to do this.’ Once I saw him come down the hill I told Brent (Hanson) go to the finish line, we got it. That was special to see him come down the line just because of all the hard work he’s done.”
What Hurley and the Perham boys team did on Saturday, was continue the school’s most recent dynasty.
At summer practices, the state title was spoken of in a basic absolute with humility.
Hurley corrected himself after the awards ceremony at St. Olaf claiming he did not know Perham or he was going to win that day before the race.
That is just being polite, professional and humble.
It was nearly a given that the Yellowjackets would repeat as state champions and Hurley was going to cross the line first to lead the way. While the Yellowjackets downplayed such claims, each time they took the course they made that statement.
Hurley was the preseason No. 3 ranked runner behind Streich, who was No. 1 and St. Cloud Cathedral’s Nick Golebiowski, who battled injuries this year.
By mid-September, pollsters took notice of the kid who was winning every time he stepped to a starting line and winning with ease.
At Moorhead, Hurley won by a half-minute, bringing Perham their first-ever Shocky Strand Invite title, the first of a few firsts for the Jackets this season.
Perham won the Milaca Mega meet, the Lucky Lindy Invite in Little Falls, all led by a runner who competed more against himself than he did the field.
Each meet a course record was in jeopardy and Hurley put a stamp on his efforts the week before St. Olaf by setting a new mark at the Section 8A championships in Bagley.
His year, and Perham’s cross country season, was reminiscent of the last dynastic Perham team, the 2011 gymnastics squad where it was a given that Perham would win the state title and then-senior Kelsi Vomacka would be the all-around champion.
Vomacka’s team completed a string of eight straight state titles.
Hurley’s team picked up Perham’s fifth championship since 2006 and did so in front of appreciative team members from last year’s state title team.
“Obviously, I want everyone to keep doing this year after year,” Speicher said. “It’s awesome to come down and see them defend our title. It just shows how great our program is.”
Hurley also noted the importance of this year’s third place finish by the girls’ team.
“It’s great for them,” Hurley said. “We support them 100 percent. You’ve got to take these steps to get back up there. They’re going to win. It’s just a matter of time.”
Hurley hands control of next year’s team to junior Billy Beseman who was 10th overall at state in an all-state performance. Beseman will lead a much younger group as five seniors from the top seven depart this year.
“I’m excited for next year,” Beseman said. “I know all the freshmen are going to step up big and we have Kanyon, Carson and Tanner. We’ll be fine. We’ll be right back here.”
Count on it.