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Yellowjacket girls XC ready for Section 8A Championships

Perham-The expectations are usually sky high for the Perham Yellowjacket cross country running program, yet this year the Yellowjacket girls have went above and beyond the norm.

Perham-The expectations are usually sky high for the Perham Yellowjacket cross country running program, yet this year the Yellowjacket girls have went above and beyond the norm.

The Yellowjackets hope to continue that trend when they travel to Twin Pines Golf Course in Bagley, Minn., on Friday, Oct. 30 for the Section 8A Championships.

The Yellowjackets are seeking their 13th straight Minnesota State High School League Class A Championship appearance.

For much of the season, the Yellowjackets have ran out in front of the pack, they anticipate that will be the same on Friday.

“The girls have exceeded expectations. Their season has been a little different because they came out of the gates just running well,” Perham Head Coach Jeff Morris said. “They have pretty much been winning all the meets they have been in. There have been very few meets where they haven’t been first or second. It’s gotten to be a normal thing where they know they can go out and win. I think they are in a situation heading into the section meet and even the state meet, they know they are the team to beat. The rest of the state may not think that, but we are confident in that regard.”

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The Yellowjackets are a unique team in the regard that they have a lot of experience in a few key spots, yet have some fresh new faces that have burst onto the scene in 2015.

 “It’s a weird team because we have great experience and some very inexperienced runners,” Morris said. “We have a couple of kids that are first year runners. Ashley Hokanson never ran cross country until this year. Its Abby Tweeton’s first year on varsity. That brings some challenges such as trying to get them to understand what everything is all about because everything is new for them. We do have girls that have great experience and when you have that, it gives a calming effect to the rest of the girls. That will be key for us heading into the post season.”

The Yellowjackets are led by junior Brynnan Covington. She is ranked seventh in the most recent Minnesota Coaches Association rankings. She has stepped into the role that has been vacant the past few seasons according to Morris.

 “That’s been something that we have been missing. We have had some great leadership the last couple of years, I look (back) at a Lizzie Fudge and Ciarrin Covington, but we haven’t had that great leader that can get up to the front,” Morris said. “That is something that we have needed since Maddie McClellan has been around.”

The Yellowjackets believe that they have that this year in Covington. Covington has raced at the front of every meet, finishing first in three meets, while not finishing below fourth in the others. Morris said she hasn’t run that perfect race, yet she still seems to get up there and compete with the best of them.

Being a team leader is something that Covington has wanted to do.

“It’s always been something that I feel that I should have to do-to want to make everyone better and to push everyone to be their best,” Covington said. “It’s something I always wanted to do.”

Along with Covington, the Yellowjackets feature a very deep team with Jenna Wegscheid, Hailey Wegscheid and Caitlin Covington putting pressure on the rest of the field.

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 “It’s a very similar situation with the girls team as it is the boys team, but I think we have a few more girls that can run up front,” Morris said. “After Brynnan, you have Caitlin Covington and Jenna Wegscheid that could be pressing the top girls at state, being in those all-state positions and top five in sections. The other girls key off of those girls well and going into the section meet, that will help a ton. At sections, it’s all about placing and position. Time is nice, but at that point it doesn’t matter as long as you are ahead of the spots you want to be. On the girls side we have a six-seven runner that could be ahead of other team’s fifth runner.”

The Yellowjackets are a very close knit group on and off the course with two pairs of sisters competing, the Covingtons and the Wegscheids.

“It’s really special having my sister on the team with me,” Covington said. “It’s not always about me and I always care about her success too. Half the time I want her to be going past me in races. I want to be there with her and push her in races. It makes me happy to have her success, along with mine on the team.”

The Yellowjackets are coming off a first place finish at the Bemidji Triangular, yet weren’t happy with the results.

“I think it will be interesting because our last meet didn’t turn out the way that we wanted it to,” Covington said. “I think our girls are realizing that we have to compete and that we can’t just get by anymore. It’s going to come down to a close meet at state. Sections will be where we show that, start to push each other more, run a good smart race like we should have been doing.”

Along with Perham, Park Rapids, Roseau, Pequot Lakes and Pelican Rapids appear to be vying for a spot at the state meet. The top two teams advance to state at St. Olaf in Northfield, Minn.

The Yellowjackets bid for the Section 8A Championship begins at 4 p.m. on Friday in Bagley.

 “We had a workout on Oct. 17 and it made me excited because we had some girls I wouldn’t expect to make a jump and they did,” Covington said. “It just makes me happy because there is no telling of who is going to be where on the team, or who is going to be getting a personal record. It just makes me happy to see that.”

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Editor's note: This version is corrected from a previous version. In the previous version, it stated the Perham Yellowjackets were going for their 14th straight state meet berth, in fact it will be their 13th. The Perham Focus apologizes for the error. 

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