Boys cross country: Anderson paces Perham to victory in largest home cross country meet in program history
The Perham cross country teams hosted nearly 1,200 kids across 30 teams at Arvig Park on Thursday. Sophomore Bjorn Anderson won the medalist honor, leading the Perham boys to a first-place finish.
PERHAM – One of the biggest challenges for the Perham boys cross country team this season was figuring out how to replace Jakob McCleary. After Thursday’s home invite, it’s safe to say they did it in more ways than one.
The Yellowjackets took first place in a field of 21 teams with a score of 57. They were led by sophomore Bjorn Anderson, who finished with a time of 15:37.1. He was just six seconds off the course record at Arvig Park. Anderson has stepped into the shoes McCleary left to run for the University of Minnesota.
“I knew with how much they trained this summer it was going to be a good season for us,” senior Micah Thompson said of the boys team. “I was talking to some of my friends about how last year Jakob was away out there ahead of us. Then we’d have that big spread between him, and it was Caden (Doll), Bjorn (Anderson), me and Carter (Flatau). That spread hurt us a little bit in team races. Now, with Jakob gone, and I love Jakob for being a great friend and an insane runner, Bjorn took that spot. He’s been going off. All of these kids stepped it up. Instead of having that 1:30 spread, it’s more like a minute now. They all work hard.”
Anderson was 13 seconds faster than Lakeville South’s Ethan Starfield, who led the Cougars to a second-place team finish with 86 points. However, behind him was a pack of yellow jerseys.
Thompson took eighth with a time of 16:18.6. He and Anderson were each ranked in the top 10 in the latest State Cross Country Coaches Association Class A polls.
“I’ve always had the strategy of staying back a little bit before I pick it up and catch up,” Thompson said. “I didn’t expect to have this kind of season, but it all goes back to my team. My teammates push me, and I’m so thankful for them, especially Bjorn and Caden. The best is yet to come for those guys.”
“Obviously, Bjorn has been a big surprise for everybody, but I think Micah Thompson has been so huge,” Perham head coach Jeff Morris said. “Basketball is his sport, but he’s running top-10 state times. He’s competing at a high level.”
Freshman Dylan Guck has emerged on the scene as one of Perham’s top runners. He took 13th place with a time of 16:33.6.
“The biggest glue for the team has been Dylan Guck,” Morris said. “He’s been a steady guy because as Carter and Caden have been coming back to form, he’s been that middle guy that’s bridged the gap from Micah to Carter and Caden.”
Carter Flatau (16:37.4) and Caden Doll (16:41.1) finished in 15th and 19th to round out Perham’s top five boys runners. Morris is impressed to see both of their seasons turn around after an inconsistent first month of meets.
“It’s been up and down for both boys and girls all year,” Morris said. “They put in such a huge summer, and I think they expected it to be easy. We’ve had our ups and downs. Caden Doll is a prime example. He’s had some struggles in track, and today it was fun to see him put it together.”
Perham is the second-ranked team in Class A. As the defending state runner-up, Thompson believes the key to finishing on top this year is to trust the process that’s tried and true.
“I think it’s going to come down to trusting each other and trusting Morris,” Thompson said. “He’s got his plan, and we need to follow it because it’s working. It’s worked for a long time. We’re going to keep training as hard as we have been before we eventually start cutting. Time will shed itself. But, in the end, your time doesn’t matter. Just work hard for your team, and you’ll be OK.”
Among the teams that ran at Arvig Park on Thursday was Park Rapids. The Panthers are ranked third behind the Yellowjackets but posed a challenge with a third-place finish in a meet that had a postseason-like feel.
“It’s kind of a state simulator,” Thompson said of the Perham invite. “What other meet are you going to have 30 teams that aren’t the Milaca Mega Meet or the Roy Griak? We have 30 teams that came to Perham on a weekday. I think it really speaks for Perham’s tradition to have this kind of turnout. I think it speaks for what Morris is doing and what these teams are trying to accomplish. They all know the tough competition is going to be here.”
Thursday’s meet was the largest in the history of Perham cross country. With nearly 1,200 kids competing from 30 different schools, Morris took some time to take a step back and appreciate what he’s helped build.
“We had a really good talk the other day at practice,” Morris said. “I don’t get emotional that often but I did around the kids because it just feels like this is my family. I have my family at home, and obviously, my kids have all been part of it with my last child in mighty mites, but all of these kids feel like they’re part of my family. I saw one of my former runners from the first year I coached. He was running over there with me today, watching his kid in fourth grade in the mighty mite race. That race had more kids here today than we had here when he was in cross country. It’s cool to see where it’s come from and to see all of the families get excited about it. The community support is just amazing.”