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The Perham girls team won their ninth consecutive Heart O' Lakes Conference title Tuesday. Robert Williams/FOCUS

Perham teams sweep all six HOL Conference races Tuesday

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The Perham cross country teams continued their dominance of the Heart O' Lakes Conference by sweeping the conference meet held at Arvig Park in Perham Tuesday.

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By sweep, the Perham boys and girls won all six races from junior high up to varsity.

The highlight of the meet was the Perham boys recording a perfect score of 15 en route to their 11th straight conference title. The top six Perham runners crossed the finish line before Cody Bekkerus of Pelican Rapids took seventh place to end the string of Yellowjackets.

Ben Sullivan, of Perham finished eighth and Mark Huebsch, who won the junior varsity race, also from Perham, finished ninth, giving Perham eight of the top nine finishers. Cody Pahlen of Thief River Falls finished 10th.

News traveled swiftly of the incredible finish. The perfect score by this year's team was the first time in school history that a team has put up a 15. The finish also propelled the team in national rankings moving up from 50th to 33rd in the country among all schools. Perham has also reached its highest ranking ever among small schools at second in the nation.

To no surprise, all seven Perham runners were named all-conference - Keeghan Hurley won the race in 15:48 and is the 2012 HOL Individual Champ. Hurley also broke the course record. Hurley broke his mark set last Thursday at the Perham Invitational.

Last year's HOL champion Brady Speicher finished second - 15:57, also beating Hurley's original course record from last week. The duo jumped out to a lead, held it through the middle of the race and were the only racers finishing under the 16 minute mark.

Billy Beseman finished third - 16:17, Jayden Cullen fourth - 16:18, Nick Carignan fifth - 16:18, Dalton Dahms sixth - 16:35, and Ben Sullivan 8th in 17:01.

The guys top five Yellowjackets ran an average time of 16:08, eight seconds off Hurley's record coming into the race.

The girls team won their ninth consecutive conference title with four all-conference runners - Brynnan Covington 4th - 15:42, Sydney Karels 8th - 16:09, Ciarrin Covington 9th - 16:12, and Lizzie Fudge 13th - 16:27.

Racole Karels, Maren Anderson, and Mary Riestenberg just missed All-Conference honors but all had solid races running 16:38, 16:48 and 16:57 respectively.

Emily Bakken of Pelican Rapids won the girls varsity race.

Emma Sweere won the JV girls title while Carson Speicher won the Junior High title.

The race marks the final home meet for Carignan, Speicher, Dahms, Huebsch and John Huber on the boys team and Ciarrin Covington, Emily Tobkin, Tanya Berns, and Kellyn Barney from the girls squad.

"(Tuesday's) meet is the most ideal meet that any senior can ask for at their home meet," Carignan said. "I couldn't have asked for any better of a last home meet short of winning it myself. I was just so proud of what our team could achieve and will continue to achieve."

The Yellowjackets were expected to do well. A member of the crowd predicted the perfect score during pre-race warm-ups and WDAY-TV was on hand to witness the Perham victory. News has spread about the growing confidence of the team but individuals on the team take on the responsibility of keeping stride with their growing accolades with a sense of humility.

"I don't know if we expect to win it every year," said Carignan. "I mean we try to stay humble and respect our competition, but it's hard not to go into it with a lot of confidence."

The girls continue to record successful outings and winning a ninth straight conference title by 25 points, 51-76 over Warroad, while having all seven runners finish in the top 20 should garner some attention from the state polls which have kept the Perham girls out of the top 10 since early in the season.

The girls team has not let that affect their performance and are gaining more confidence and momentum heading to the section meet where they will seek a 10th straight trip to the state meet with a top two finish at Bagley.

"I thought it was a great race," senior Ciarrin Covington said. "It really emphasized how much I'm going to miss my girls more than anything. We have gotten so close this year, it's (going to) be so hard to say goodbye. All of these girls are like my sisters."

Covington is correct in more than a figurative sense with key components of the girls team being a pair of sisters, Brynnan and Ciarrin Covington and Racole and Sydney Karels, along with Fudge, Anderson and Riestenberg. All seven Perham runners finished the 4k in less than 17 minutes showing a pack mentality like on the boys team.

"We truly are a family," Ciarrin said. "This race showed how as a team we truly are hungry to improve and we are really starting to believe."

That belief shows in both varsity teams, the junior varsity squads and down to the junior high runners. Both varsity teams have lofty goals with differing proofs to come in the weeks leading up to November 3 and the state meet at St. Olaf.

The girls finished second in the section last season and will look to regain their top spot there heading to state where with the right amount of confidence and belief the Yellowjackets can make a run at the girls first-ever state title.

From the end of last season, the boys varsity team has had no goal other than a state title and head into sections and state with a top ranking in Minnesota Class A, along with their growing national recognition.

"As for sections and state, we are going to try to keep a level head on top of not undermining the competition," said Carignan. "I think we are exactly where we want to be this far into the season, but we want to keep working our way up."

Both teams wrap up the regular season Monday, Oct. 15 at the Park Rapids Invitational. The Section 8A Championships will be in Bagley Friday, Oct. 26.

Heart O' Lakes Conference Championships

Boys Team Results

1. Perham 15

2. Pelican Rapids 75

3. Thief River Falls 104

4. Roseau 129

5. West Central Area 135

6. Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton 146

7. Hawley/Ulen-Hitterdal 148

8. Frazee 231

9. Warroad 242

Perham results (Including top five):

1. Hurley 15:48.9; 2. Speicher 15:57.3; 3. Beseman 16:17.1; 4. Cullen 16:18.2; 5. Carignan 16:18.3; 6. Dahms 16:35.9; 8. Sullivan 17:01.8.

Heart O' Lakes Conference Championships

Girls Team Results

1. Perham 51

2. Warroad 76

3. Pelican Rapids 80

4. Roseau 103

5. West Central Area 115

6. Thief River Falls 126

7. Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton 153

8. Breckenridge 185

Top-five

1. Emily Bakken (PEL) 15:26.5; 2. Madeline Huglen (ROS) 15:31.9; 3. Tianna Wald (PEL) 15:35.3; 4. B. Covington (PER) 15:42.0; 5. Abby VanKempen (WCA) 15:47.2.

Perham results:

4. B. Covington 15:4.02; 8. S. Karels 16:09.1; 9. C. Covington 16:12.5; 13. Fudge 16:27.4; 17. R. Karels 16:38.3; 18. Anderson 16:48.1; 19. Riestenberg 16:57.6.

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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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