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Cross country: Perham girls bring home fifth Class A state title in program history

The Perham girls cross country team ran under the motto, "Let's get this bread." On Saturday, the Yellowjackets secured the bread. Perham won its fifth state title in program history with an impactful senior class and a strong family connection.

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The Perham cross country team won the Class A cross country championship at St. Olaf College in Northfield on Nov. 5, 2022
Jared Rubado / Perham Focus
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NORTHFIELD – According to digitalcultures.net, the phrase “Let’s get this bread” is derived from Rich Boy’s 2007 hip-hop song “Let’s get this paper.”

The phrase changed from paper to bread over time, but the objective is the same.

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Perham's Mya Morris runs at the state Class A cross country meet at St. Olaf College in Northfield on Nov. 5, 2022
Jared Rubado / Perham Focus

For the Perham girls cross country team, the bread is a fifth Class A state championship. On Saturday, they ran the money race.

“Oh, it’s awesome,” Perham head coach Jeff Morris said. “I’ve been to many state meets. You hope you can get five of them to run well. To have all seven of them run well today was great. It wasn’t everybody’s PR, but it’s what they’re capable of, and that’s the biggest thing. You have to get your kids to do what they know they can do. It’s the fastest race we’ve ever had for our girls at a state meet.”

The Yellowjackets finished with a team score of 56, the lowest in program history at the state meet. They beat St. Cloud Cathedral (78) and Staples-Motley (107) to earn their fifth banner since 2015.

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“It feels really good,” senior Quincy Anderson said. “Last year, we had a really good outcome, but we were all kind of thinking about a state championship. We didn’t get it last year. Having Mya (Morris) back and running with the seniors on the team has been really fun.”

Mya Morris missed last season with an ACL injury, sidelining her for the entirety of her junior season in cross country, basketball and track. She returned healthy this season, finishing 33rd overall with a time of 19:59.64.

“It means so much to me,” Mya Morris said on staying healthy. “To be able to push through a full season and stay on varsity after missing a year feels so good. It’s given me a new confidence. I have a new appreciation for the team and what it means to run with them.”

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Perham's Gracie Morris runs at the state Class A cross country meet at St. Olaf College in Northfield on Nov. 5, 2022
Jared Rubado / Perham Focus

Her sister, Gracie Morris, finished 17th overall with a time of 19:33.33.

“It’s always nice to have somebody to jump out in front,” Jeff Morris said. “Gracie stuck her nose up there and ran with the top six or seven. She was in eighth place right before the mile. She fell back a little bit, but because she got out in front early, the girls just keyed off of her. It pulls them to the front with her. It brought them all together.”

Ella Hendrickson (19:44.00, 21st) and Anderson (19:50.72, 25th) also earned all-state honors with top-25 finishes. Leelou Novotny (19:57.17) and Caidyn Breid (19:57.82) claimed 29th and 31st to round out the top five scores. Myriah Tharaldson (20:29.50) finished in 61st place to cap off a championship-winning performance.

“It feels like all of our training paid off,” Mya Morris said. “We got second last year. It’s still good, but it was kind of a letdown. We really trained the hardest we’ve ever trained this summer. We had five girls fighting for the last two spots. We wanted to push each other. It was good to get rewarded for that.”

Running for a purpose

There was plenty of motivation for the Perham girls on Saturday, but maybe none bigger than running for an injured senior.

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Liz Birkeland missed most of the 2022 season with a stress fracture in her foot, halting her cross country career earlier than expected.

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Perham's Quincy Anderson gives Jeff Morris a high five at the state Class A cross country meet at St. Olaf College in Northfield on Nov. 5, 2022
Jared Rubado / Perham Focus

“She still comes to practice and is there for us every day,” Anderson said. “She was in our hotel room last night having a good time. When we think about all of the negative things like the weather being kind of gross and how hard it is to run, we think to ourselves, ‘At least we get to be here together as a team.’”

Jeff Morris loved seeing a group come together for a more significant cause.

“It’s devastating to have a kid be here every year and not be able to compete during her senior season,” he said. “I was saving this for her after the meet, but I didn’t get to compete in my senior year either. I was the state runner-up as a junior. You can’t plan for these things. For the girls to be so invested in making Liz a big part of this is really fun.”

Mya Morris, Anderson, Birkeland, Tharaldson, Lauryn Rustad, and Olivia Rosenthal make up the senior class for the Perham girls. Saturday marked the final time the six 2023 graduates will be on the Yellowjackets’ roster.

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Perham's Ella Hendrickson runs at the state Class A cross country meet at St. Olaf College in Northfield on Nov. 5, 2022
Jared Rubado / Perham Focus

“I think all the seniors had it in the back of their minds that every step we took was one step closer to the end of our cross country careers,” Anderson said. “We wanted to end it really well. Obviously, we accomplished that.”

For Mya Morris, the Perham cross country program is about family. Whether it’s her parents coaching or her sister leading the pack, their time on the course together isn’t taken for granted.

“It’s not just because it’s a state championship. It’s just that we get to be as close as we are because of this sport,” she said. “Not many kids have this opportunity. I get to be with my parents, who are my coaches. I get to run with my sister. I’m her number one fan. She’s so good.”

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During the first meet of the season, Mya Morris wore a shirt that read, “Not running for Perham sucks.” It symbolized how much she loved running for her teammates and community.

“We’re proud to be from Perham,” Mya Morris said. “(Jeff Morris) has built such a good program. It’s not even that our runners are really good. It’s more about the family. Not every team around the state, even the really good ones, can say they have this much team chemistry. These are all my best friends. The shirt is kind of a joke, but it just means we love each other and this program.”

For Anderson, Saturday put a bow on a hardware-filled career. Winning a state championship team was the icing on the cake.

“Being part of Perham cross country has changed how I am as a student and an athlete,” Anderson said. “It’s going to impact how I am as an adult and when I go off to college. We learn to work for each other. It’s not about the individual. Bjorn (Anderson) and Gracie (Morris) are ranked super high. You can think of those individuals and be proud of them, but it’s about our team winning the state championship.”

PERHAM GIRLS CLASS A STATE MEET FINISHES- 17- Gracie Morris 19:33.33, 21- Ella Hendrickson 19:44.00, 25- Quincy Anderson 19:50.72, 29- Leelou Novotny 19:57.17, 31- Caidyn Breid 19:57.82, 33- Mya Morris 19:59.64, 61- Myriah Tharaldson 20:29.50

CLASS A STATE MEET TEAM SCORES- 1- Perham 56, 2- St. Cloud Cathedral 78, 3- Staples-Motley 107, 4- Murray County Central 149, 5- Lake City 167, 6- Canby-Minneota 200, 7- Northwest Nighthawks 210, 8- Hawley 238, 9- Wadena-Deer Creek 248, 10- Rochester Lourdes 253, 11- Ely 278, 12- Minnehaha Academy 185, 13- Nova Classical Academy 286, 14-Carlton Wrenshall 302, 15- GFW 367, 16- Sibley East 385

Jared Rubado is the sports editor for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and the Perham Focus. He moved to the area in September of 2021 after covering sports for the Alexandria Echo Press for nearly three years. Jared graduated from the University of Augustana in 2018 with degrees in journalism and sports managment.
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