Cross country: Anderson, Perham boys finish third at Class A state meet, future bright for young team
The Perham boys cross country team finished in third place at the Class A state championships. Sophomore Bjorn Anderson finished third overall and spoke about a season full of growth and his motivation for next fall.
NORTHFIELD – It’s not often a third-place finish at the Class A state cross country meet is a sign of better things to come. Then again, not every team is from Perham.
The Yellowjackets claimed the bronze position on the podium with a team score of 133. They finished behind Heritage Christian Academy (96) and Luverne (102) with a youthful roster eager to climb up the standings a year from now.
“They’re disappointed in how they placed, but not with their effort,” Perham head coach Jeff Morris said. “They know they have to raise the bar a little bit more next year. It’s always cool when you get kids at this age to realize that they can always work a little bit harder and be a little bit smarter. That’s about growing up and being an adult. That’s the kind of stuff that sticks with them for the rest of their lives.”
The top five teams were separated by 58 points. Park Rapids took fourth with a score of 139, followed by Greenway-Nashwauk-Keewatin in fifth (157).
“It’s super competitive,” Morris said. “To win this race, you have to be on. We were a little off. The kids never gave up. They had every reason to give up with the sickness and not being healthy the last two weeks. We came here today with everybody healthy, but it wasn’t our day. They did their very best, and that’s all you can ask for.”
Bjorn takes center stage
The Perham cross country team had one senior from a year ago. It just so happens he’s a Division I-level runner at the University of Minnesota.
Replacing Jakob McCleary was a tall task, but sophomore Bjorn Andersons stepped up to the plate. He cemented his best state meet showing with a third-place finish (15:57.82), trailing Sauk Centre’s Brandon Kampsen (15:48.44) and Nova Classical Academy’s Henry Karelitz (15:55.55).
“For me, it was the summer training and getting after it every day,” Anderson said. “I found a joy in the grind. I wanted to work hard for this season. That’s what went into summer training. I just wanted to work hard and put in the miles. That’s all of our team.”
Anderson’s third-place finish paced the Yellowjackets. Micah Thompson finished in 32nd place with a time of 16:56.03, followed by Caden Doll (17:18.36, 66th), Dylan Guck (17:23.47, 72nd), Brayden Glorvigen (17:34.84, 86th), Carter Flatau (17:49.16, 86th) and Blake Swenson (18:23.03, 128th).
“Because Jakob (McCleary) is gone, somebody needed to step up,” Anderson said. “We also needed to tighten the spread. We needed the fifth, sixth and seventh runners to be up further to make up the time Jakob had. It’s about getting a compact time and getting consistent.”
There was a learning curve for the Yellowjackets this fall. With familiar faces stepping into more prominent roles, it took more effort to work out the kinks and finish as a top-three team in the state.
“This whole year has been a learning experience in getting to know everybody and what this means for each other,” Anderson said. “It’s about growing together as a team. It’s the one thing that makes championship teams champions.”
Anderson’s eyes got a little wider when he looked up at the crowd as he stood on the auditorium stage at St. Olaf College. Seeing hundreds from the Perham community made him put Saturday into perspective.
“It’s special to have all of these people care about the sport,” Anderson said. “It means a lot to see people work hard for this team and to see our hard work pay off. I know what my job is on this team. I know I have a lot under my belt now. It’s special to be the guy people look to now. I don’t take it for granted.”
Anderson will be one of the favorites to stand on that stage again next year. He’s hoping he can trade in the white ribbon for a blue one.
“I came here looking to get more experience,” Anderson said. “I didn’t really know what it was like to do all of this. I’m still figuring it out as I go. I’m just excited for the future.”
Senior Micah Thompson contemplated not going out for cross country this season.
While he hopes to play basketball at the collegiate level next year, Thompson considered hanging up the running spikes after a successful junior season. After a summer with little running, he decided to give cross country another go, spending most of the fall as a top-ranked runner in Class A.
Saturday was Thompson’s final race before he gears up for his senior basketball season.
“A little bit,” Thompson said when asked if running his last cross country race was bittersweet. “These boys came a long way from the start of the season. They had to grow up to get to this point. They’ve come a long way. Cross country is a family sport. You work hard enough to get here. It’s nice to enjoy it with a finish like this.”
Thompson has two state meet medals. After last year’s second-place team finish and this year’s third-place prize, he was quick to deflect any credit to his underclassmen teammates.
“These guys are going to be some darn good runners in the coming years,” he said. “The rest of the state needs to watch out. They know how to work, and they’re young. There are just two juniors with a bunch of sophomores and freshmen. Just watch out. They’re going to do special things.”
Morris is confident the returning runners will improve enough to replace Thompson’s production on the course. The more significant challenge is finding a new emotional leader.
“We’ll miss that steadiness every day at practice,” Morris said. “He comes ready to work every day. The younger guys can get a little squirrely. We’ll need somebody to fill that role and be there for this team emotionally, like Micah was. Regardless if it’s practice or a meet, we need that. I think the guys will step into that after seeing such a good role model in Micah. He’s an incredible leader.”
Thompson was all smiles following the award ceremony. He feels privileged to be part of a historic program.
“Our entire community supports us,” Thompson said. “It feels like the whole town is here. Cross country means a lot to our school and our community. For people to recognize that and support us is a pretty great feeling. Walking through the school yesterday and seeing all the kids look up to us was amazing. It’s surreal to be part of this team.”