Perham boys cross-country state champions
Watching the first 20 runners cross the 3,200-meter mark and the finish line at 5,000 meters, one wondered where were the Yellowjackets and then a pack of yellow swarmed to the state championship.
The final meet of the season was held at St. Olaf College, in Northfield, Minn. in chilly temperatures and a stiff wind that blew out the finish line into the faces of the finishers.
Temperatures at race time were in the 30s with winds gusting between 15 and 27 miles per hour.
Led by Keith Schornack, who has been the lead Yellowjacket runner all season, the Jackets buzzed the finish line as a group taking the title with room to spare.
Schornack finished in a determined sprint into the wind, passing runners to lead the Perham squad.
"I am so proud of how these guys ran and just excited for them to enjoy celebrating their season," Head Coach Jeff Morris said.
The 161 racers went out from the start hot, but Perham stuck to their race plan and settled into the middle of the pack.
"Our top runner was only in 50th place at the mile. We slowly moved up throughout the race, but a stiff head wind from the one-mile and half mark to the two-mile mark made it tough to close a lot of the gap that the front runners had created early in the race."
The Yellowjackets did a lot of passing the whole race, and were catching runners until the finish.
The state championship is the third for the boys cross-country program, the first since 2006 and 2007 when Perham won back-to-back titles.
The team has finished either first or second in seven of the past eight years. Having finished second the past two years, the Jackets were excited to again reach the summit.
"This state title was so awesome, due to the fact we were able to run so well as a team. To get a team down here with the number one ranking and then have all seven of your runners run their personal best on the course is quite an accomplishment."
The Perham boys ran with confidence in the face of a daunting task all season. Holding the top ranking for most of the season put targets on their backs at every meet they ran.
A willingness to stick to coach Morris' strategy of running as a team forced Yellowjacket opponents into looking at their backs all season. As is wont in championship teams, they improved every week and put forth their ultimate effort when it mattered most.
"We did not have anyone in the top 10, but our pack from one to seven was just a perfect picture of how much these guys have learned to work together as a team."
Starting the season with the goal of the state championship being the only acceptable target can put pressure on a squad.
Even in warm-ups at St. Olaf, the team appeared calm, relaxed and confident.
"Our goal has been to get the guys down here with one primary goal, run what they know they are capable of and these guys definitely did that."
Schornack garnered all-state honors with a 25th place finish and an all-time best on the St. Olaf course of 16:38.
Klaus Weber just missed being named all-state finishing 29th.
Sophomore Nick Carignan ran a great race finishing 36th overall and seconds away from all-state honors.
Sophomore Brady Speicher and senior Brandon Karels ran personal bests on the course and rounded out the scoring.
Andrew Riestenberg and Dalton Dahms also had personal bests on the state course for sixth and seventh positions on the team.
Cross country results
Perham at the Class A State Cross-Country Meet, Saturday, Nov. 6. St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minn.
Boys' team results: Perham 78, Plainview-Elgin-Millville 98, St. Cloud Cathedral 102, Minnehaha Academy 187, Waseca 187, Esko 193, Holy Family Catholic 197, Mora 202, Fairmont 206, Albany 221, LaCrescent 240, Thief River Falls 256, Sauk Centre 306, Crosby-Ironton 336, Redwood Valley 355, Canby/ Minneota/Lincoln-HI 357.
Individual results 25. Keith Schornack 16:40, 29. Klaus Weber 16:48, 36. Nick Carignan 16:57, 47. Brady Speicher 17:15, 51. Brandon Karels 17:19, 65. Andrew Riestenberg 17:29, 74. Dalton Dahms 17:44.