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Perham claims the 2013 National High School Coaches Association DII Boys Cross Country National Team Championship.

The Perham boys hold aloft the Minnesota Class A state trophy Saturday in Northfield. Robert Williams/FOCUS

After a second straight Minnesota Class A State Team Championship, Perham has been named the Division II National Champions for a second straight season.

In the deepest DII State Meet in the nation, Perham outlasted three top 25 nationally-ranked teams to win with 52-points, 59-points ahead of DII US No. 7 Mounds Park HS.

“It is the coolest thing!" Head Coach Jeff Morris said. “I am really surprised. The weekend was so awesome and now this is just icing on cake. Just a testament to captains and all their leadership this summer, that is where is starts. (Keeghan, Billy, Chris, Jayden and Ben).”

Perham finished with a 16:26 5k team average, led by individual State Champion Keeghan Hurley who covered the 5k course in 15:36.

While Hurley has received plenty of deserving attention for his efforts this year, he chose to move to Perham to run cross country because of the coaching, the program, and the hard work and dedication of his teammates.

Cross country is both a team and individual sport. Both parts need each other to succeed.

Jayden Cullen has led this team from the starting gun on a dead sprint to pace for two solid national championship seasons. Cullen was eighth overall in 2012 and improved to fifth this year.

Billy Beseman made incredible progress during his 2012 sophomore season and backed that up this year. He will be an excellent leader of next season’s squad as Perham tries to make it three years in a row in Minnesota and the nation. Beseman was 19th in 2012 and finished in the top 10 making the podium in 10th place this year.

Ben Sullivan’s story is one of the more intriguing tales on the team. A guy who decided to run two years ago will graduate a two-time state and national champ and left St. Olaf Saturday an all-state finisher. His efforts, hard work and determination are proof it is never too late to try something new and with enough guts one can become prolific in a short time on determination alone. Sullivan was 74th overall in 2012 and made a huge leap of 60 places to 14th this season.

Chris Knutson earned his way as an alternate on last year’s team to a 60th overall finish, 32nd in team placings. Knutson’s willingness to keep battling earned him the five-spot on this year’s team. His time also allowed him to gain perspective. At the beginning of the state race, the team huddled on the ground, each on one knee, arms around each other. There was one runner standing addressing the team with a pre-race speech. On a team loaded with seniors, leadership came from all five, but Knutson took charge in crunch time.

Anyone who watched Kanyon Edvall race has seen a smile on his face that lasts for 5,000 meters. Edvall, a junior in his first state race, placed 67th overall and will join Beseman and Tanner Monson as the three leading seniors next year who will have a load of talented underclassmen to groom into the Perham way of winning.

While many in a pack at the finish Saturday struggled to the line, senior Leighton Covington strode confidently and in a sprint to his place of 90th overall, 48th in team placings. Covington keeps a family name going at St. Olaf. During the height of Perham success for both boys and girls, the Covingtons have made major contributions and Leighton’s finish, and the way he went about it, cannot be overlooked.

With all the talent Perham has, runners like Knutson and junior Tanner Monson, one of two alternates on this year’s team have to wait until their senior year for a chance at St. Olaf.

Monson will be primed for his opportunity to come, along with the first eighth-grader at Perham to ever be on a state championship team Carson Speicher.

Speicher, who also keeps a family name going in XC, dominated junior varsity competition this year to earn a spot in the big lineup and will be ready for scoring opportunities in his coming freshman year.

Finishing fourth overall in Class A and Class AA combined scoring against three-teams ranked in the top 30 overall nationally propelled Perham's power score to a point that it is statistically impossible for them to be caught by any other DII team.

Those Class AA teams are: US No. 10 Wayzata HS, MN; US No. 19 Edina HS, MN; US No. 29 Stillwater HS, MN. It is safe to say that Minnesota is a hotbed for high school cross country.

Perham is coached by Jeff Morris, Kay Morris and Brent Hanson. Morris was last season’s Minnesota State Boys Coach of the Year and NHSCA Boys National Coach of the Year.

“Kay, Brent and I are just so honored to be apart of this program and ultimately be able to pour into these kids lives,” said Morris. “That is what is really all about, for me, to be able to inspire these kids do great things. I told before state that Champions don’t wait for the stars to align, they place the stars right where they want them and align them through the hard work, positive mental attitude and enjoying the journey every day.” contributed to this story.

Robert Williams

Sports Editor at the Detroit Lakes Tribune. Williams worked prior as the Sports Editor in Perham for the Focus, a Forum Communications newspaper, from 2010-14. 

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