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Top-ranked Yellowjackets run out in front in Bemidji

Perham's Liz Birkeland leads a group of runners across the finish line during the Bemidji Invitational on Oct. 17. Birkeland finished sixth and was the second Yellowjacket across the line. Jordan Shearer/Forum News Service

The newly top-ranked Perham girls cross country running team cemented their status with a first place finish at the Bemidji Invitational on Oct. 17.

The Yellowjackets spent most of the season ranked second, but the most recent Coaches Association rankings have slotted the Yellowjackets as the top team in the state for Class A.

After a dominant performance in the Heart O’Lakes Conference, the Yellowjackets backed it up with a strong win in Bemidji.

The Yellowjackets finished with 39 points, finishing with all seven runners inside the top 25 and six in the top 20, besting the Moorhead Spuds for the title. Moorhead finished second with 44 points. Bemidji came in third with 82 points, followed by Crosby-Ironton with 112 points. Thief River Falls finished fifth with 114 points. Warroad came in sixth place, while Cass Lake-Bena rounded out the field.

Perham head coach Jeff Morris said it’s the toughest course they race on all season and that very few runners eclipse the 20 minute mark. He added it’s a callous building course. However, the Yellowjackets continued to use their strong pack running, securing the team victory.

The individual race winner was Bemidji’s Sadie Hamrin. She finished with a time of 19 minutes and 38.4 seconds. Right behind her was Perham’s Caitlin Covington. The junior finished the race with a time of 20:05.3 for second place honors.

Perham’s Liz Birkeland finished sixth overall. The seventh grader has emerged as one of the top runners for the Yellowjackets as the season has progressed. She finished with a time of 20:36.2. She was followed by Ashley Hokanson. Hokanson finished with a time of 20:39.7 for eighth place honors.

The Yellowjackets had a pair of runners finish just outside the top 10. Abby Tweeton finished in 11th place, while Hailey Wegscheid came in right behind in 12th place. Tweeton crossed at 20:56.4, while Wegscheid ended with a time of 21:08.9.

Lauryn Rustad came across the line in 18th place. She finished with a time of 22:08.3. Perham’s Mya Morris rounded out the field. She finished in 21st place. The seventh grader finished with a time of 22:22.1. The Yellowjackets had a trio of seventh graders crack the top 25, showcasing the youth and the depth of the team. Morris talked about the runners pushing each other for varsity spots throughout the season and it continues to show with their results meet in and meet out.

The Yellowjackets hope to run their Class A state meet appearance streak to 15 straight years when they compete at the Twin Pines Golf Course in Bagley on Oct. 27 for the Section 8A Championship.

Jason Groth

 Groth is a Minnesota Newspaper Association award-winning Sports Editor of the Perham Focus and the Wadena Pioneer Journal. Groth worked in Grand Rapids as the Sports Director at KOZY/KMFY radio for two years and prior to that he was the Sports Editor/Writer for the Grand Rapids Herald-Review for seven years. 

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