MOORHEAD - Keeghan Hurley battled only the guy running the pace-setting four-wheeler in an impressive victory at the Shocky Strand Invitational cross country meet Monday in oppressive heat.

“At first, I thought I was going to pass it this year,” Hurley said.

Temperatures jumped from 82 degrees at the start of the girls’ race at 10 a.m. to 88 degrees 30 minutes later. The high temps affected running times and runners alike.

“In 14 years of coaching, it was the hottest conditions I can remember, but what impressed my coaching staff and I for all the runners is how mentally tough they were,” Head Coach Jeff Morris said. “The times were certainly affected by the heat and in our huddle before the race we made it very clear to the kids that the times did not mean much.”

The win was the second consecutive for Hurley who dominated the Strand last season. Hurley’s 5K time of 17:06.8 was nearly a half-minute faster than runner-up Sam Carlson of Bemidji. Near the halfway point of the race, Hurley, Billy Beseman, Ben Sullivan and Jayden Cullen lined up, much like the team ran last year, before Hurley slowly pulled away from the pack and finished alone without a competitor in sight.

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Beseman and Sullivan joined Hurley in the top ten. Beseman finished in sixth place; Sullivan eighth. Kanyon Edvall, a new face on varsity, had an impressive finish down the stretch to place 15th and Jayden Cullen was right behind in 16th. The combined times of the top five were good enough for Perham’s first-ever win at the Strand Invitational and put the boys team right where they want to be heading into a heralded season with lofty expectations.

“Going into this I didn’t want to risk heat exhaustion, so I decided to pace it and smooth it out," said Hurley. "We’ve never ran this race before this hot. I think we were the best team coming into the heat. We ran all summer. I feel like we did good. We started out slow and came on in the end. That’s Perham cross country.”

The boys are currently ranked No. 1 in class A and No. 1 in Division II in the country, along with a No. 25 ranking among all school sizes in the nation. They backed those rankings up defeating a number of Class 2A schools in the first meet of the year.

“So really exciting to finally get the W at this meet,” said Morris. “The boys goals are extremely high to pick up right where we left off last year and show not only the state but the nation we can run with the best teams anywhere. It was definitely a lot of fun watching our top four led by Keeghan Hurley pack together early and slowly move up the front. Just as exciting was seeing the new faces step up to replace a great graduating class from last season. Kanyon Edvall, Chris Knutson and freshman Jacob Dickerson stepped into fill in the gaps left due to graduation. We leave the race ready to do the work we know needs to be done this season. We are super excited about the depth we have as seen in our Junior Varsity and Junior High boys teams.”

Knutson finished 17th overall in a three-Yellowjacket final sprint with Edvall and Cullen. Dickerson, the lone freshman among juniors and seniors had an impressive debut finishing 21st. In classic Yellowjacket fashion, one-third of the top 21 finishes were Perham runners.

The No. 4 (Class A) ranked Perham girls team finished fourth behind three 2A teams, Bemidji, Willmar and Moorhead. Bemidji had four runners in the top eight led by junior Jenna Truedson, who won this race last season. Truedson led start to finish in an impressive repeat performance with a winning 4K time of 15:09.9.

No surprise for the Yellowjackets, as they were led by Brynnan Covington, now a freshman, with a time of 16:36.5. She finished seventh overall. Senior Lizzie Fudge was 16th; sophomore Sydney Karels was 18th; senior Racole Karels 27th, followed by Mary Riestenberg in 28th.

Seniors Emma Sweere and Kayla Hodgden rounded out the Yellowjackets finish in 31st and 35th place.

“You can see the girls team is wanting to share in the same success that our guys teams have had,” said Morris. “We got the girls together at beginning of the summer and said this is the year to get back on the podium and compete for a state title and they showed this first meet that they are ready to make a push to be the top Class A team.”

“We just really pushed through it,” Racole Karels said.

“We had 10-mile runs this summer, but we made them fun,” Sydney Karels said. “It paid off.”

“Our girls have been training hard and are ready to get to the hard work that will happen in the next few weeks to continue to compete further and further up the pack,” Morris said.

The Junior Varsity girls were led by Marlee Curtis with a ninth place finish and Caitlin Covington led the Junior High girls with a fourth place finish.

Tanner Monson led the Yellowjackets to a team win in the JV race winning the individual race with teammate senior Hunter Salathe just behind in second place. The junior high team was led by Carson Speicher who made a last 50-meter push to win the Junior High race. Speicher was the center of some controversy having won the race but ruled runner-up by an error in timing at the finish line. He will certainly have more motivation his next time on the course after that mix-up to go with filling some big shoes left by his brother Brady Speicher, who graduated in 2013 and now runs for Minnesota State University-Moorhead.

“We are super excited about our Junior high boys with 11 seventh graders out this season,” said Morris.

Shocky Strand Invitational

MB Johnson Park - Moorhead, Minn. August, 26.

Varsity Boys XC 5K Team results: Perham 46; Willmar 65; Bemidji 67; Moorhead 86; Roseau 124; Hawley 175; Pelican 188; TRF 206; Fergus 277.

Perham(B) 1-Hurley 17:06.8 6-Beseman 17:53.8 8-Sullivan 18:04.5 15-Edvall 18:44.5 16-Cullen 18:54.2 17-Knutson 18:58.85 21 Dickerson 19:31.2

Varsity Girls XC 4K Team results: Bemidji 35, Willmar 38, Moorhead 67, Perham 96, Pelican 153, Fergus 164, TRF 199, DGF 234.

Perham Girls: 7-Covington 16:36.5; 16-Fudge 17:13.7; 18-S. Karels 17:29.1; 27-R. Karels 18:06.8; 28-Riestenberg 18:10.8; 31-E. Sweere 18:50.2; 35-K. Hodgden 19:17.8.