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Perham girls race to the front of Section 8A

The Perham Yellowjackets celebrate their Section 8A Championship victory at the Twin Pines Golf Course in Bagley. Jason Groth/FOCUS1 / 2
Perham's Caitlin Covington pushes up the hill and the snow as she ran out in front of the Section 8A Championships. Jason Groth/FOCUS2 / 2

There was no way to prepare for the conditions at the Twin Pines Golf Course in Bagley, Minn., for the Section 8A Championships on Oct. 27, so the Yellowjackets put them in the back of their mind and ran to the front, claiming the championship on a snow covered course.

“I have never ran in snow so that was something new. (Head coach Jeff) Morris said to give it your all and that it was another obstacle,” Perham’s Caitlin Covington said. “The first 200 was terrible. All the girls are kicking up snow at you or tripping, but us Perham girls just pushed right by that.”

An early snow storm blasted the area, dropping eight inches of snow on the course. While some of the snow melted away prior to the race, it left a lot on the course and a track that wasn’t cleared off.

“I have had one meet that was in 2009 where we ran in a blizzard, but to come here and see three to four inches on the ground was disheartening as coaches. But, for the kids, we said the kids are going to remember this and have fun,” Morris said. “This is something they are going to remember 30-40 years down the road. All of my section meets blur together, but I can tell you the two years it snowed, 2009 and now in 2017. It’s pretty cool.”

The Yellowjackets finished with 37 points, capturing the title. The victory extends the Yellowjackets streak to 15 straight Class A Championship appearances. United North Central finished second with 102 points overall. The Yellowjackets had four runners finish in the top 10 of the race and all seven in the top 25.

“You never know how something like this is going to go. They didn’t plow the course, so it was a mess the first loop around the course because there is not much for footing,” Morris said. “I was so proud of the girls for how gritty they were and they showed mental toughness. I think that’s something we have that no other team in the state meet will have. People that advance from here will have some toughness to take into next week, which will be a big advantage.”

With her older sister, Brynnan, watching via FaceTime, Caitlin Covington captured first place honors, finishing with a time of 20 minutes and 35.9 seconds. Brynnan was last year’s section champion and Caitlin continued the streak, finishing first.

“Brynnan was the champion last year and it’s like taking her spot on the team,” Covington said. “I know I’m doing my best for my teammates and pushing myself to do my very best.”

Caitlin said going into the race she was nervous and knew it would be cold, but said they were going to have fun in the snow and that’s what they did.

“For all of us when we saw the finish line and knew there were no tracks that we could follow, we needed to trudge through this,” Covington said. “We pushed our arms and sprinted off.”

Covington has filled in the spot vacated by her sister, who is running for the North Dakota State University Bison. She said she doesn’t see herself as a leader and that they all travel as one together.

“We are super close and I have never had a team like this before,” Covington said. “It’s something really unique because we have three seventh graders, I love them. They all did super awesome. Liz Birkeland was right behind me and I could see her the whole time. Lauren and Mya did awesome, too. They were all nervous going in, but they pushed right through it.”

Birkeland was right on Covington’s heels. She finished fourth with a time of 21:20.1 in her first section race. Birkeland is one of three seventh graders that have emerged for the Yellowjackets. Morris said while it was their first section finals, they had experience at the course and ran around the same times they ran when the course was clear earlier in the season.

“They are running as fast in the snow as they were running in the middle of the year,” Morris said. “Liz has established herself as one of the top runners in the section and I think the other two have more in them. I think you will see something pretty special from them. We have a philosophy in workouts of touch a teammate and that means we are in a pack together. I think that’s what we will see next week and they will run with confidence.”

Ashley Hokanson followed with a sixth place finish. She pushed through the snow, finishing with a time of 21:28.1. Hokanson was followed by another junior in Hailey Wegscheid. Wegscheid was the fourth Yellowjacket inside the top 10 when she finished eighth overall. She crossed the line with a time of 21:39.5.

Perham’s Abby Tweeton came in 23rd place overall. She finished the race with a time of 22:56.2. Lauryn Rustad came in 22nd place, finishing with a time of 22:57.2, followed by Mya Morris, who came in with a time of 22:59.9. Morris finished 25th overall in the race.

Frazee’s Ellie Morgan came in second place, finishing with a time of 21:11.3, while Crookston’s Katherine Geist followed with a time of 21:17.9 for third place. Lake Park-Audubon’s Lily Peterson finished fifth at 21:25.5.

The Yellowjackets will now compete at the Class A Championships in Northfield at Saint Olaf College on Nov. 4.

Section 8A Team Results

Perham 37, United North Central 102, East Grand Forks 119, Pelican Rapids 133, Lake Park-Audubon 154, Pequot Lakes 188, Crosby-Ironton 204, Frazee 220, Wadena-Deer Creek 233, Warroad 250, Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton 274, Ada-Borup/Norman County West 276, Park Rapids Area 279, Roseau 351, Nevis 376, Pine River-Backus 446, Clearbrook-Gonvick 456

Perham Individual Results

1 Caitlin Covington 20:35.9

4 Liz Birkeland 21:20.1

6 Ashley Hokanson 21:28.1

8 Hailey Wegscheid 21:39.5

23 Abby Tweeton 22:56.2

22 Lauryn Rustad 22:57.2

25 Mya Morris 22:59.9

Jason Groth

 Groth is a Minnesota Newspaper Association award-winning Sports Editor of the Perham Focus and the Wadena Pioneer Journal. Groth worked in Grand Rapids as the Sports Director at KOZY/KMFY radio for two years and prior to that he was the Sports Editor/Writer for the Grand Rapids Herald-Review for seven years. 

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