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Birkeland takes first, Perham wins 15th straight HOL title

Fans look on as Perham's Liz 1 / 2
Emily VanWatermulen, front, and Quincy Anderson, back, take the turn at the Birchwood Golf Course and drive forward during the Heart O'Lakes Conference Championships in Pelican Rapids. Jason Groth/FOCUS2 / 2

Perham’s Liz Birkeland reached the podium at the Class A State Track and Field meet last spring and the eighth grader hasn’t slowed down since. She added her first career Heart O’Lakes Conference Individual championship, helping the Yellowjackets to their 15th straight title at the Birchwood Golf Course in Pelican Rapids on Oct. 9.

“It was great. When you got done with that big hill, you knew that you could do this because there were no more big hills,” Birkeland said of the final stretch of the race.

Birkeland, Pelican Rapids’ Abby Syverson, West Central Area’s Lexi Bright and Perham’s Caitlin Covington set the pace of the race. Covington, who continues to recover from an illness, returned to the front of the pack for the Yellowjackets, Birkeland and Bright set out with a very fast pace at the beginning of the race.

Caitlin Covington

“It felt good. We started out faster than we were going to, but it’s really nice having her (Covington) to push us,” Birkeland said.

Birkeland finished the race with a time of 20 minutes and 1.2 seconds. Syverson was second and Bright was third. Covington finished fourth with a time of 20:26.3.

It was a cooler day but the rain held off. The runners were able to take advantage of the hilly course, using the downhills to gain momentum at the Birchwood Golf Course.

“The weather was pretty nice and it’s better than when it’s super hot,” Birkeland said. “There were uphills, but there were bigger downhills. I feel like and you just need us the downhills and it was good. Morris told us to get our toes, lean down and let gravity do its work.”

Lauryn Rustad and Hailey Wegscheid

Birkeland said it was awesome to turn around at the finish line when she saw all the Perham jerseys crossed the finish line. All seven of Perham’s varsity runners finished inside the top 15, earning all-conference honors.

“It’s really nice because we have a tight pack and we can always see the jersey in front of us and know that you have your team to push you,” Birkeland said. “It’s really nice. I think our top seven were all-conference, so that’s great.”

Quincy Anderson followed in fifth place with a time of 20:31.8, while Emily VanWatermulen finished in seventh place at 20:34.3. Mya Morris came in eighth place at 20:39.8, while Lauryn Rustad was 11th at 20:52.4. Hailey Wegscheid rounded out the field for Perham with a time of 20:53.8 for 12th place.

Mya Morris

“We are super excited about the girls race, especially since (the) course is the toughest course we run all year-long,” Perham head coach Jeff Morris said. “The girls know it is time to get some good training in the next 2 weeks. We run one last regular season meet in Bemidji next Tuesday.”

The Yellowjackets will compete at the Greenwood Golf Course in Bemidji at 4 p.m. on Oct. 16.

HOL Conference

Girls Team Results

Perahm 23, West Central 59, Pelican Rapids 92, Lake Park-Audubon 119, Hawley 123, Thief River Falls 145, Breckenridge/Wahpeton 158

Individual Top 10 Results

1 Liz Birkeland, PER, 20:01.2; 2 Abby Syverson, PEL, 20:12.4; 3 Lexi Bright, WCA, 20:18.2; 4 Caitlin Covington, PER, 20:26.3; 5 Quincy Anderson, PER, 20:31.8; 6 Megan Danielson, FRA, 20:31.8; 7 Emily VanWatermulen, PER, 20:34.3; 8 Mya Morris, PER, 20:39.8; 9 Teagan Nelson, WCA, 20:41.0; 10 Taytum Nelson, LPA, 20:45.7.

Perham Individual Results

1 Liz Birkeland, 20:01.2; 4 Caitlin Covington, 20:26.3; 5 Quincy Anderson, 20:31.6;  7 Emily VanWatermulen 20:34.3; 8 Mya Morris, 20:39.8; 11 Lauryn Rustad, 20:52.4; 12 Hailey Wegscheid, 20:53.8.

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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