The Perham boys team knew what they had to do after watching the girls team secure their third straight Class A Championship on Nov. 2 at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn. The boys team followed suit by holding of a strong surge from West Central Area in securing their third straight Class A Championship and the eighth overall for the program.
“The pressure they must have felt in that moment,” Perham Head Coach Jeff Morris said about the boys team before their race. “I realized it was going to be tough. West Central Area is really good. I don’t think people realize it’s hard because sometimes people think we are just always up there. West Central Area is a heck of a team and every time we run against each other, we bring out the best in each other. I knew it was going to be tough.”
The Yellowjackets were led by three All-State runners with Jakob McCleary, Brandon O’Hara and Bailey Evenson receiving those honors with their efforts during the race at St. Olaf.
McCleary was fourth, O’Hara was eighth and Evenson finished in 15th place. While those three had strong performances, Carson Hespe, Chase Belka, Owen Werner and Tesfaye Young did their jobs as well, helping secure the key points needed to keep the separation with West Central Area. Perham won the meet by eight points when they finished with 75 points. West Central Area came in second with 83 points. O’Hara said it was a culmination of all the team’s hard work.
“It feels really good. It’s the culmination of months and even years of hard work that we put in together and staying consistent and humble at the same time,” O’Hara said after the race.
McCleary said he wouldn’t want to achieve the feat with any other team.
“I love this team like a family,” McCleary said. “These seniors have been like brothers. It’s crazy.”
The Yellowjackets were a veteran team with four seniors, who left their mark on the program by helping secure the eighth title in team history. O’Hara said he was thinking about his teammates as he approached the final stretch of the race.
“I knew that in a close race that we had today, every point was going to count,” O’Hara said. “I was just thinking about my teammates knowing that they are going to push through the pain just as much as I’m going to push through the pain. It was about finishing hard and finishing with nothing left in the tank.”
McCleary finished fourth overall with a time of 15 minutes and 48.7 seconds, while O’Hara was eighth at 16:06.9. Evenson finished the day in 15th place with a time of 16:26.3.
Carson Hespe was the fourth runner across the line and was one of five inside the top 50 for Perham. Hespe finished with a time of 16:47.4, while Chase Belka came in 49th place as the fifth Perham runner to finish. He ended the race with a time of 16:57.2. Owen Werner was the sixth runner across the line with a time of 17:07.2 and Tesfaye Young rounded out the field for Perham with a time of 17:20.2 for 82nd place.
McCleary said it’s shocking and kind of crazy that they are apart of the first program in state history to win three straight girls and boys titles during the same span.
“It’s kind of crazy that we have been so successful. We have put in a lot of hard work, so it’s good to have stuff to show for it,” McCleary said. “But, it’s not about winning, it’s not about the medals, it’s about the team. I love being a part of the team. It’s sad to see the seniors leave. I love this team, and I have been a part of it since my eighth grade year. The bonds that we have made are really sharp, and they are like brothers to me. It’s going to be rough to see them go. But, at the same time, it’s going to be my turn to be that kind of role model, kind of brother to the younger kids and bring them up to this team.”
The Yellowjackets graduate four seniors and return McCleary, Hespe and Werner to next year’s team.
Class A Boys Championship
Perham 75, West Central Area 83, St. James 154, Lac qui Parle Valley/Dawson-Boyd 182, Staples-Motley 184, Nova Classical Academy 200, Minnehaha Academy 220, Lake City 228, Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin 235, East Grand Forks 239, St. Cloud Cathedral 264, Ely 271, Mankato Loyola/Cleveland 282, Heritage Christian Academy 287, Lewiston-Altura/Rushford-Peterson 321, Redwood Valley 352
Individual Top 10
1 Geno Uhrbom, G/NK, 15:27.6; 2 Emmet Anderson, S-M, 15:42.6; 3 Jacob Bright, WCA, 15:43.8; 4 Jakob McCleary, PER, 15:48.7; 5 Hunter Klimek, S-M, 15:49.7; 6 Cameron Stocke, Virginia, 15:51.1; 7 Luke Olson, Ely, 16:04.5; 8 Brandon O’Hara, PER, 16:06.9; 9 Jack Vankempen, WCA, 16:16.2; 10 Henry Snider, Mounds Park, 16:19.8.
Perham Individual Results
4 Jakob McCleary, 15:48.7; 8 Brandon O’Hara, 16:06.9; 15 Bailey Evenson, 16:26.3; 38 Carson Hespe, 16:47.4; 49 Chase Belka, 16:57.2; 58 Owen Werner, 17:07.2; 82 Tesfaye Young, 17:20.2.