Individual state champion Hurley leads Perham to back-to-back state titles
NORTHFIELD — Keeghan Hurley won the Minnesota Class A individual cross country title in ideal weather conditions and led the Perham Yellowjackets to their second straight, and fifth overall, state championship in their 12 consecutive appearance at St. Olaf.
Hurley joins his father, Don, as the first-ever father-son duo to win state cross country titles. Don was a back-to-back state champion in 1976-77.
“I just woke up today and you know how you read in books where people say they have an epiphany, that’s exactly what happened to me today. My brother texted me saying today’s your day. It was a special day with the father-son moment, never having been done before and the team title. It was perfect.”
“He knew his race plan; he was very confident in his race plan,” Head Coach Jeff Morris said.
Hurley was a member of the Fergus Falls 2010-11 state swimming champions with his brother Michael, before transferring to Perham to concentrate on cross country.
“I came to the course today and saw how fast the AA race went and was like, ‘I’m going to do it.’”
The team championship is the third in the past four seasons for the Yellowjackets, with the only blemish being a runner-up finish in 2011 by one point to St. Cloud Cathedral.
Keeghan, ranked No. 1 coming into the state meet, defeated Waseca’s Shane Streich by 14 seconds and enjoyed the ovation from a large crowd running down the final straightaway alone. Ian Torchia of Rochester Lourdes was third 20 seconds behind Hurley.
Perham’s Jayden Cullen, Billy Beseman and Ben Sullivan joined Hurley for all-state honors, given to the top 25 finishers in the field of 175 runners.
“Billy and Jayden really stepped up this year,” Sullivan said. “It’s been awesome.”
Cullen was fifth overall, Beseman 10th, and Sullivan 14th.
Perham totaled 52 team points with senior Chris Knutson’s 32nd team placing added to the top four giving the Yellowjackets a comfortable 59-point victory over runners-up Mounds Park Academy (111).
St. Cloud Cathedral finished third with 145 points.
Hurley ran at the front of the pack before breaking out with Streich and Torchia in a three-man race at the 2000-meter mark. Cullen was all alone in fourth place.
From that point, the race was all Hurley backing up his personal claim that this was his year to win the individual championship after cruising to the Section 8A championship last week.
Hurley won every race he entered this season but the daunting Roy Griak Invitational at the University of Minnesota, where he placed sixth.
Perham loses five seniors from their top seven runners to graduation. Beseman and Kanyon Edvall, two juniors, return to lead Perham on a quest for a third straight Class A title.
“My freshman class is one of the best classes I’ve ever had,” Morris said.
Edvall finished in 37th and senior Leighton Covington placed 48th in team placings, 67th and 90th overall to round out the Perham boys finishes.
Perham was voted the preseason No. 1 team in Class A, held that position all year and put a stamp on their ranking by winning easily Saturday.
For full meet results visit the MSHSL website.
More coverage from St. Olaf will appear online Monday and in the November 7 print edition of the Perham Focus.