The Perham cross country teams left no doubt as to if they would get a chance to win their fourth straight state championships at the Section 8A meet in Bagley on Friday.
The Yellowjacket boys took first place as a team with a score of 34. Jakob McCleary was the fastest runner in the field with a time of 16:05. But McCleary leading the pack wasn't the big surprise of the day. Sophomore Caden Doll took third overall with a time of 16:59.
"Caden has made huge improvements in every meet," Perham head coach Jeff Morris said. "His confidence is at a place where he knows he can compete at the front of the pack in every race now."
Bjorn Anderson (17:17), Micah Thompson (17:36) and Carter Flatau (17:45) rounded out the top five Perham boys.
"Another huge breakout race was Carter Flatau, who made up his mind today to close the gap to Micah and Bjorn," Morris said. "This was definitely Carter's strongest race of the season. He has looked so strong in workouts, so we knew if he could just stay in touch with our top four, he would break through. Today was the day."
"Brayden Glorvigen also had a big race today, going under 18 minutes again as our sixth runner. Blake Swenson rounded out the top seven but suffered a side stitch with a mile to go. Blake did amazing toughing it out, but it was definitely a bummer because, at two miles, he was on pace for his best race. He will definitely rebound awesome next week at State."
Perham beat out Park Rapids by 38 points for first place. Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton (126) finished in third. The Yellowjackets had four runners in the top 11 overall places.
Perham girls also will go for four
The Perham girls team is also the three-time defending Class A state champions, much like the boys squad. They took first place at sections with a team score of 35.
Gracie Morris was the fastest Yellowjacket in the race with a time of 19:43. She took second overall behind the State's top Class A runner Jade Rypkema from Nevis. Gracie Morris was just 25 seconds behind.
Perham went into sections expecting a neck and neck race with Hawley, the State's fourth-ranked Class A team. Second-ranked Perham rode its depth to a section championship by seven points.
"They had strength in their pack running today," Morris said. "Leelou Novotny, Qunicy Anderson, and Liz Birkeland ran great races finishing sixth, seventh and eighth. Our top four girls are really tough and have been working out so well. It is just so fun to see them realize that they can run faster, and you can tell the best is yet to come. First-year varsity runner Avalee Brown also posted a top-15 finish in 12th and Kaia Starlz was 17th. Mia Lung rounded out the top seven and finished 35th overall."
Novotny (20:05), Anderson (20:09.8) and Birkeland (20:09.9) all finished within four seconds of each other. Brown clocked in at 20:48.
Both the boys and girls teams were outstanding academically. The team GPA for the girls was 4.0, while the boys posted a 3.954. Doll, Thompson, Anderson and Birkeland earned academic all-state honors.