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O'Hara leads the way as Perham secures section title

The Perham boys cross country running team celebrates its Section 8A Championship. Participants were, front row, from left, assistant coach Penny Birkeland, Clayton Anderson, Isaac Scheidecker, Owen Werner and assistant coach Kay Morris. Second row, from left, assistant coach Brent Hanson, Bailey Evenson, Brandon O'Hara, Jakob McCleary, Tesfaye Young, Chase Belka, Carson Hespe and head coach Jeff Morris. Jason Groth/FOCUS1 / 2
Perham's Clayton Anderson, Bailey Evenson and Brandon O'Hara run up front during the opening stretch at the Section 8A Championships in Bagley. Jason Groth/FOCUS2 / 2

Perham junior Brandon O’Hara took a quick glance behind him, raised his arms and crossed the finish line first, securing his first ever Section 8A Championship win and helped key the Yellowjackets to its 13th straight Section 8A Team Championship and 17th straight trip to the Class A Championships at the Twin Pines Golf Course in Bagley, Minn., on Oct. 26.

O’Hara let out a quick sigh of relief after coming down with a high temperature the day prior and what he saw behind him was a pair of Yellowjackets pushing each other to the finish. Perham recorded the top three spots on their way to the title. Perham had seven runners inside the top 25.

Brandon O'Hara

“It feels awesome. Going into this race, our main goal was to just qualify but to come out with the win is an added bonus,” O’Hara said. “It was tough. Mentally, I had to push through today. Coach (Jeff) Morris said you have to play the hand that you are dealt and I played the hand that I was dealt and it turned out alright.”

O’Hara won the race with a finishing time of 16 minutes and 17.9 seconds. His teammates, Clayton Anderson and Bailey Evenson, were stride-for-stride with each other on the way down the backstretch. Anderson edged out Evenson at the line for second by a tenth of a second. Anderson finished with a time of 16:24.2, while Evenson was at 16:24.3.

O’Hara said it’s a testament to the depth the Yellowjackets have with seven in the top 25.

“We had seven in the top 25 and we have even more that weren’t running today that could have been in that position,” O’Hara said of the team’s depth.

O’Hara said the game plan was like any other race, even though it had championship in its title. He said the team had the same mindset overall. Perham finished with 21 points for first place, while East Grand Forks finished second with 63 points and advances to state as well. Wadena-Deer Creek was third with 150 points, while Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton was fourth with 168 points. Pequot Lakes rounded out the top five with 184 points.

The Yellowjackets were able to put some sickness behind them on their way to the title and Perham head coach Jeff Morris said the team needed to put that behind them.

Isaac Scheidecker

“I said no excuses and let’s just go out there and our thing and it was pretty awesome,” Morris said. “I know it was the second time that we have went one, two and three in the section. Everyone ran so well. Brandon ran extraordinary and felt so much better. I don’t think we have anything to say about how we felt, because everyone felt great and ran strong.”

Jakob McCleary was the fourth runner across the line for Perham and he finished in sixth place. He had a time of 16:52.4. Chase Belka was the fourth Perham runner inside the top 10 when he finished in ninth place. The junior crossed the line with a time of 17:05.4.

Jakob McCleary

Isaac Scheidecker came in 14th place with a time of 17:21.3 for the Yellowjackets. He was the sixth runner inside the top 15. Tesfaye Young rounded out the field with a time of 17:50.0, crossing the line in 23rd place.

Being out in front is nothing new to the Yellowjackets. They have been ranked No. 1 all season long and look to repeat as Class A Champions when they compete in Northfield on Nov. 2. Morris said they try to minimize what other teams are doing compared to themselves.

“The biggest thing is to remind the kids to just worry about us and let everyone else worry about us,” Morris said. “If we keep our focus on ourselves and what we can do and not let the focus be to beat teams but to be the best version of ourselves and I think that’s what keeps the pressure off of any kid.  Pressure is hard even for adults and we are just trying teach that for kids and they handled it very well.”

Section 8A Boys Team Results

Perham 21, East Grand Forks 63, Wadena-Deer Creek 150, Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton 168, Pequot Lakes 184, Frazee 190, Bagley/Fosston 206, Roseau 210, Crosby-Ironton 226, Nevis 241, Ada-Borup/Norman County 315, Lake Park-Audubon 319, Park Rapids Area 329, Hawley 339, Warroad 361, United North Central 365, Pelican Rapids 422, New York Mills 480, Pine River-Backus 566, Lake of the Woods/Rainy River 578.

Individual Top 10 Results

1 Brandon O'Hara, PER, 16:17.9; 2 Clayton Anderson, PER, 16:24.2; 3 Bailey Evenson, PER, 16:24.3; 4 Tyson Mahar, EGF, 16:28.2; 5 Cole Nowacki, EGF, 16:28.2; 6 Jakob McCleary, PER, 16:52.4; 7 Sakariye Ismail, EGF, 16:53.8; 8 Christian Sterton, A-B/N, 16:57.5; 9 Chase Belka, PER, 17:05.4; 10 David Johnson, PEL, 17:12.3.

Perham Individual Results

1 Brandon O'Hara, 16:17.9; 2 Clayton Anderson, 16:24.2; 3 Bailey Evenson, 16:24.3; 6 Jakob McCleary, 16:52.4; 9 Chase Belka, 17:05.4; 14 Isaac Scheidecker, 17:21.3; 23 Tesfaye Young, 17:50.0.

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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