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Yellowjacket girls ready to defend section title

The Perham Yellowjacket Girls Cross Country Team is one step closer to defending its Minnesota State High School League Class A Championship from a year ago. The top ranked Yellowjackets enter Friday's Section 8A meet in Bagley, Minn., as the heavy favorites.

The Yellowjackets are looking to advance to their 14th straight MSHSL Class A meet when they compete for the Section 8A Championship on Oct. 21.

"I think sections is the most nerve-wracking one. I told the kids that we haven't earned the right to run at the state meet, you have to earn it at the section meet," Perham head coach Jeff Morris said. "It's reminding the kids and keeping it into perspective as coaches that we have one more meet, and then hopefully we qualify and get another meet out of it."

The Yellowjackets are led by the duo of Brynnan Covington and Caitlin Covington. The sisters are both ranked in the most recent coaches poll. Brynnan is ranked second overall, while Caitlin is ranked 10th.

The sisters pack a dynamic one-two punch at the top, but it's also the team's great depth that has helped the Yellowjackets sustain their success.

The Yellowjackets are coming off a win in Bemidji, where they had four runners finish in the top 10. Brynnan finished first, while Caitlin was third. Hailey Wegscheid finished fourth and in ninth was Abby Tweeton. Ashley Hokanson earned an 11th place finish, while Evalyn McCleary and Mary Wunderlich finished in 17th and 18th, respectively.

"It's been really fun running with our team and getting together again," Wegscheid said. "We did really well. We competed and chased down jerseys, trying to get the best places that we could."

One of the concerns of this Yellowjacket team was its ability to avoid complacency after winning the state title last year. It was the first state championship for the girls cross country program. After the opening meet of the season at Moorhead, the Yellowjackets have continued to put aside, driving for a second straight title.

"Some teams you worry about settling in the mode of thinking that we did this last year and it's not a new thing," Morris said. "They are just as hungry and excited about it as they were last year. I think, for them, the possibility of repeating is pretty amazing. There is some other history that goes into it."

The Yellowjackets have been vocal about their goal as a combined program during the season. That has helped motivate both teams. The boys and the girls are both ranked No. 1 in the state, and they are hoping to become the first program to sweep the Class A Championships.

Wegscheid said they will take it one step at a time, and not take their teammates for granted.

"It helps motivate us because we know we are so close to each other," Wegscheid said. "We have to do it for our team."

The depth in the section continues to grow, with Perham leading the way. However, Morris said the depth of the individuals in the section is better than any other in the state.

"The caliber of our section has definitely grown. We have always had good teams, but the depth is definitely a lot better," Morris said. "We have three or four teams on the girls side that could finish in the top 10 in the state. You have us, United North Central, Pequot Lakes and Pelican Rapids. It's going to make it interesting. We have 10 individuals that could make all-state in the top 25. I think we have that in our section."

The championships take place at the Twin Pines Country Club in Bagley, Minn., at 4 p.m.

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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