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Pack mentality helps Perham girls repeat as Class A Champions

The Perham girls cross country running team after the Class A Championships, from left, assistant coach Brent Hanson, assistant coach Penny Birkeland, Abby Tweeton, Mya Morris, Quincy Anderson, Hailey Wegscheid, Caitlin Covington, Liz Birkeland, Lauryn Rustad, Emily VanWatermulen, Mia Lung, assistant coach Kay Morris and head coach Jeff Morris. Jason Groth/FOCUS

The Perham girls cross country team talked all season about touching a teammate. It was that mentality that helped the Yellowjackets make history by winning their second consecutive, third overall, Class A Championship at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn., on Nov. 3.

The Yellowjackets won the team title with 94 points, while Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted finished second with 99 points. Winona Cotter was third with 140 points, followed by Luverne and Staples-Motley to round out the top five.

Caitlin Covington

Perham’s Caitlin Covington said she took the advice from head coach Jeff Morris to be the best version of herself. The team followed suit as they were able to repeat as Class A Champions.

“I knew that my teammates were right behind me and with me,” Covington said. “Going into it we knew we would have a lot of competition. We just did what we were told which was be best version of ourselves and give all we got on the course. We had one last race of the season.”

It was that pack mentality that helped the Yellowjackets pull out the win. Winona Cotter had three runners inside the top 10, but their fourth and fifth runners were nowhere near the Perham pack. Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted had one in the top 12, but the top three Perham runners were in front of its second runner.

Hailey Wegscheid

Covington said it showed they were really good at touching a teammate. She added if you can’t touch a teammate, you are not in the right spot.

“We told them before the race that we are running seven for five, while a lot of teams are running four for five or three for five, with three good runners or four good runners. We have seven solid runners,” Morris said. “All of them have been the third runner at one point in the season. It’s really neat to have that competition and the biggest factor is not only the depth but the seniors today. Hailey (Wegscheid) and Caitlin had their best meets at the state meet today and that’s cool. Sometimes, you never know with seniors. You either have that moment where you go out the way you want to go out or you don’t go out the way you want to go out. They had that moment and it was pretty special.”

Cotter’s Grace Ping and Lauren Ping claimed the top two spots. Grace Ping finished with a time of 17 minutes and 19.4 seconds, which set a new course record. Lauren Ping finished at 17:41.5.

Covington was the top finishing Yellowjacket when she finished in 16th place at 19:24.1. She was followed behind by Liz Birkeland, who came in 18th place at 19:26.6.Liz Birkeland

“It’s crazy because some teams have some really fast runners, but our team is all equal,” Birkeland said. “We always try to touch a teammate because we can touch a teammate. Some teams don’t have that. It’s really cool that your team can be pushing you because you should be able to see them and that can push you.”

Senior Hailey Wegscheid finished the race in 36th place with a time of 19:48.1. Quincy Anderson finished in 53rd place at 20:04.4, while Lauryn Rustad was in 68th at 20:12.8. Mya Morris finished in 86th place with a time of 20:30.1. Emily VanWatermulen rounded out the field with a time of 21:03.4.

The Yellowjackets will return a lot of experience to next year’s team with four eighth graders and a sophomore coming back from this year’s team.

Girls Team Results

Perham 94, Howard Lake-Waverly 99, Winona Cotter 140, Luverne 147, Staples-Motley 176, Lake City 198, Mesabi East 219, Lac Qui Parle Valley/Dawson-Boyd 221, West Central Area 229, Providence Academy 255,  Jordan 267, Belle Plaine 277, GSL 281, East Grand Forks 290, North Shore 291, The Blake School 310.

Girls Individual Top 10 Results

1 Grace Ping, Cotter, 17:19.4; 2 Lauren Ping, Cotter, 17:41.5; 3 Morgan Gehl, MCC/F, 17:53.9; 4 Ava Hill, ME, 18:24.4; 5 Morgan Arnold, 18:27.1; 6 Grace Dietz, C/M, 18:30.5; 7 Tenley Nelson, Luv, 18:34.9; 8 Natasha Sortland, Z-M/K-W, 18:46.0; 9 Katherine Geist, CRK, 18:58.4; 10 Maddie Kelly, PA, 19:08.7.

Perham Individual Results

16 Caitlin Covington, 19:24.1; 18 Liz Birkeland, 19:26.6; 36 Hailey Wegscheid, 19:48.1; 53 Quincy Anderson, 20:04.4; 68 Lauryn Rustad, 20:12.8; 86 Mya Morris, 20:30.1; 112 Emily VanWatermulen, 21:03.4.

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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