Perham girls cross country coach Jeff Morris knew his team was nervous prior to the Class A Championships at St. Olaf on Nov. 2. Prior to the race, he told the team to run for themselves and not worry what everyone thought.
His team listened, and they delivered with a dominating performance on their way to their third straight and fourth overall Class A Championship.
“When they were at the starting line, I could tell they were nervous. They were so nervous what everyone thought and what would people think if they didn’t win.” Morris said. “I reminded them that it was about you, running for each other. It matters in your eyes, not what it matters in everyone’s eyes. It’s a good thing for kids to learn because we do things because that’s what other people want us to do. I told them to do it for you and do it because you want to do it together.”
The Yellowjackets were led up front by a pair of Class A All-State runners in Liz Birkeland and Aspen Rohde. Birkeland finished in 14th place with a time of 19:22.5, while Rohde finished in 25th with a time of 19:37.5, securing the final spot on the All-State team.
“We knew it was really close, so we knew we had to run our best to do what we wanted to do,” Birkeland said after the race.
Rohde said she was running for her team, and her goal was to pick off and pass every person that she could.
“It feels really good compared to just making it as an individual last year,” Rohde said. “Then, this year making it with the whole team and winning it, feels good.”
While Birkeland and Rohde led the way at the front, it was the pack that put the pressure on the field and continued to help Perham pull away. The young but experienced team, showed their poise throughout the race.
“It was really fun, because we are there for our teammates,” Birkeland said. “Even if someone is having a bad race, it’s just so fun to have everyone run good at this meet.”
Birkeland and Rohde said they were very nervous before the race, but when the gun goes off it’s just another race and they continue to race for each other.
“We say touch a teammate and we literally can because we are so close,” Rohde said. “During the race when you hear your teammates cheer for you, you just want to go.”
Mya Morris was the third Perham runner to cross the line. She finished in 34th place overall. She had a time of 19:50.1.
Quincy Anderson was the fourth runner across the line for Perham. She closed with a time of 19:57.9. Kaia Starzl finished with a time of 20:25.3 for 76th place and was the fifth runner across.
Lauryn Rustad closed with a time of 20:40.7 for 101st place, while Abby Tweeton came in with a time of 20:49.0 for 106th place.
“It’s really fun, because our team is really close,” Birkeland said. “We are all family and each other’s friends. It’s really fun to share it.”
Class A Girls Championship
Perham 103, Luverne 138, Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted 154, Murray County Central 165, Staples-Motley 171, Lake City 180, Albany 190, Pequot Lakes 197, Stewartville 205, Mesabi East 243, Fairmont 258, Providence Academy 261, Hawley 279, Belle Plaine 280, Blake 312, St. Paul Academy and Summit School 321.
Individual Top 10 Results
1 Morgan Gehl, MCC, 17:53.5; 2 Jade Rypkema, Nevis, 18:20.2; 3 Tenley Nelson, Luverne, 18:27.1; 4 Ava Hill, Mesabi East, 18:39.9; 5 Addison Hoof, Mayer Lutheran, 18:46.8; 6 Kyanna Burton, S-M, 18:47.2; 7 Kira Sweeney, WDC, 19:02.4; 8 Calia Chaney, 19:02.6; 9 Madeline Kelly, Providence Academy, 19:03.8; 10 Jacey Majerus, Lake City, 19:05.7.
Perham Individual Results
14 Liz Birkeland, 19:22.5; 25 Aspen Rohde, 19:37.5; 34 Mya Morris, 19:50.1; 42 Quincy Anderson, 19:57.9; 76 Kaia Starzl, 20:25.3; 101 Lauryn Rustad, 20:40.7; 106 Abby Tweeton, 20:49.0.