Cardinals run to 2nd, 4th at Early Bird Invite

STARTING POINT — Fairmont runners, from left, Emily Kerekes, Tony Ortega, Yatzi Balderas and Tyrell Zieske sprint from the starting line during the senior division of the season-opening Early Bird cross country invitational Friday on the Fairmont High School campus. (Photo by Charlie Sorrells)

FAIRMONT — The Fairmont girls cross country team ran to a second-place finish, while the Cardinal boys finished fourth during their season-opening competition Friday.

Instead of running varsity and junior varsity races, each competitor at the Early Bird Invitational on the Fairmont High School campus ran against other members of their grade.

“In some ways it’s different and, especially starting out, I think some kids feel more comfortable just running against kids their own age,” said Fairmont head coach Bob Bonk. “It’s a bit of a different format and I think most everybody likes it.

“There’s four high school races, one for each grade, and we just pull out the best five places from any of the four races to create a team’s score. … It’s just the best five no matter what grade.”

Along with the different team scoring format, the top five runners from each race earned a medal and the high school races were 4,000 meters instead of the usual 5K, while the junior high races were 1 mile.

Blue Earth Area senior Grant Strukel earned a medal in the first race of the day when he finished third in the boys portion with a time of 13:53.2. Fairmont’s Tony Ortega just missed a medal with his sixth-place finish in 14:49.9, while Tyrell Zieske placed 12th in the senior boys race with a time of 16:14.1.

In the senior girls’ portion, Fairmont’s Emily Kerekes ended 11th with a time of 23:42.2 and Yatzi Balderas ran to 12th in 25:52.3.

Fairmont’s William Saari claimed gold in the junior boys race with a time of 13:58, with teammate Connor Artner close behind in 14:39.6 for third.

BEA’s Cameron Germain finished seventh among junior boys with a time of 17:18.9 and James Greer finished 13th at 21:58.3.

Tabitha Thatcher grabbed a silver medal for the Cardinals in the junior girls race with a time of 17:29.2, while Hannah Neusch took fourth at 17:38.3. Sara Sundblad finished seventh by crossing the finish line in 20:10.3 and Becca Lunn was close behind at 20:14.5 for eighth.

Fairmont’s Laura Thompson took the top girls time of the day when she finished the sophomore girls race in 15:36.9, beating out Luverne’s Tenly Nelson, who placed seventh at last season’s state meet, by 5.5 seconds.

Bonk said Thompson beating Nelson was a great achievement and he thought all the Cardinal girls ran hard.

“I was really happy,” Bonk said. “Laura winning that race today, Tenly Nelson is ranked about fifth in the state and she’s just a great runner. For Laura to pass her with about 400 (meters) to go and hold her off, that was a great, great individual race.

“The team that was one point behind us (the Waterville-Elysian-Morristown/ Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton Grizzlies) was third in the section last year and we were fourth. It was nice to beat them. It’s very early in the year and a different format, so it’s hard to say what that all means, but I thought we competed well and some of the younger girls looked really good, too.”

Emma Gudahl placed seventh for the hometown Cardinal sophomores with a time of 18:55.7, while Eleanor Hamlet finished 11th in 19:58.2. Justine Eisenmenger crossed the finish line in 19th place for Fairmont in 23:55.7.

BEA’s Elizabeth Jacobson took 20th in the sophomore girls race with a time of 24:35, while teammate Aubrey Hueper took 23rd at 27:10.9.

BEA’s Angel Martinez was the first area competitor to complete the freshman boys race when he took fourth in 15:50.3. Fairmont’s Alex Cruz was next in seventh place with a time of 16:57.3, before BEA’s Damion Mahlstedt crossed in ninth at 17:15.4.

The Bucs’ Carson Strukel took 11th when he crossed in 17:24.3, while the Cardinals’ Gavin Artner ran a time of 17:57.9 for 14th. BEA’s Eli Pax (22:26.5) took 21st, while Shane Levenhagen (22:43.5) finished 22nd.

BEA head coach Tom Plocker said he was impressed with the Bucs’ two medalists and was happy with the team’s overall performance in their first meet of the year.

“It’s always nice, we had a beautiful day today and the main thing is to get a good, hard run in,” Plocker said. “We had some encouraging results.

“We had two medal winners — Grant Strukel, in his final race at this meet, ran his fastest 4K ever. Ninth-grader Angel Martinez also got a medal, so that was really nice as he transitions into the varsity race distance. It was just a good test for running hard.”

Fairmont’s Lily Higgins placed 16th in the freshman girls race with a time of 22:17.3, while teammate Bethany Thatcher was close behind at 22:18.3 for 17th. BEA’s Sara Hernandez finished 18th in 23:16.2.

For the 1-mile eighth-grade boys race, Fairmont’s Sebastian Castro finished in 6:47.7 for 21st, while teammate Alex Kastning ran a time of 7:46.1 for 27th.

The Cardinals’ Ava Terfehr took fourth in the eighth-grade girls race in 6:30.8, while BEA’s Leah Becker ran 8:11.5 for 12th and Reagan Bromeland finished 16th in 8:59.2.

Among seventh-grade boys, Fairmont’s Andrew Haugen ran for a time of 6:34.3 for 12th, while Max Baker finished in 28th at 9:00.9 and Tait Johnson crossed in 29th at 9:59.9.

BEA’s Hayden Vereide crossed the finish line at 8:54.8 for 27th.

Bonk said the Cardinal boys showed that though they don’t have many experienced runners, they can still compete well.

“The guys finished middle of the pack and considering we’re so young and don’t have many older kids, I thought that was a very nice job,” Bonk said.

Fairmont’s Macy Hanson (5:50.1) and Carys Gudahl (6:24.9) finished first and second, respectively, in the seventh-grade girls race, while Ellie Ortega (6:50.8) finished ninth and Samantha Domeier (7:02.8) took 10th. Rylee Maday crossed the finish line at 8:02.9 for 18th, Paige DeBoer took 20th at 8:27.7 and Norah Traetow claimed 27th with a time of 9:03.

BEA’s Addison Smith finished in 21st with a time of 8:34.5.

Fairmont and Blue Earth Area race again at 10 a.m. Wednesday when the Cardinals and Bucs travel to Mountain Lake for the Paul Metcalf Invitational.


Varsity Girls (4K)

Team Standings: 1. Luverne 14; 2. Fairmont 21; 3. Waterville-Elysian-Morristown/Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton 23; 4. St. Peter 24; 5. Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial/Nicollet 35; 6. Mountain Lake Area 38. Incomplete: St James Area, Jackson County Central, Heron Lake-Okabena, Blue Earth Area.

Individual Results (Top 5)

Senior Division: 1. Paola Acevedo (SJ) 17:31; 2. Norely Sanchez (SJ) 19:27.2; 3. Summer Janzen (ML) 21:05; 4. Mallory Oye (LUV) 21:27.4; 5. Claire Baustian (LUV) 21:38.2. Fairmont results: 11. Emily Kerekes 23:42.2; 12. Yatzi Balderas 25:52.3.

Junior: 1. Regan Feit (LUV) 16:41.6; 2. Tabitha Thatcher (FMT) 17:29.2; 3. Breeley Ruble (SP) 17:34.1; 4. Hannah Neusch (FMT) 17:38.3; 5. Emma Johnson (WEM/JWP) 18:05.5. Other Fairmont results: 7. Sara Sundblad 20:10.3; 8. Becca Lunn 20:14.5.

Sophomore: 1. Laura Thompson (FMT) 15:36.9; 2. Tenley Nelson (LUV) 15:42.4; 3. Lauren Dimler (WEM/JWP) 17:04; 4. Grace Moeller (LCWM/N) 17:07; 5. Brooklynn Ver Steeg (LUV) 17:12.9. Other Fairmont results: 7. Emma Gudahl 18:55.7; 11. Eleanor Hamlet 19:58.2; 19. Justine Eisenmener 23:55.7. BEA results: 20. Elizabeth Jacobson 24:35; 23. Aubrey Hueper 27:10.9.

Freshman: 1. Hadley Stuehrenberg (SP) 15:56.8; 2. Addison Peed (WEM/JWP) 16:15.5; 3. Elizabeth Wagner (LUV) 17:06.6; 4. Tiana Lais (LUV) 17:09.5; 5. Madison Zimbrich (WEM/JWP) 17:50. Fairmont results: 16. Lily Higgins 22:17.3; 17. Bethany Thatcher 22:18.3. BEA result: 18. Sara Hernandez 23:16.2.

Varsity Boys (4K)

Team Standings: 1. St. James Area 14; 2. Luverne 22; 3. Jackson County Central 27; 4. Fairmont 29; 5. Mountain Lake Area 30; 6. Blue Earth Area 34; 7. Waterville-Elysian-Morristown/Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton 45. Incomplete: St. Peter, Heron Lake-Okabena, Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial/Nicollet.

Individual Results (Top 5)

Senior Division: 1. Brayden Tofteland (LUV) 13:33.9; 2. Troy Parulski (SJ) 13:52.3; 3. Grant Strukel (BEA) 13:53.2; 4. Jackson Miest (SJ) 14:00; 5. Mauricio Vite (SJ) 14:41.1. Fairmont results: 6. Tony Ortega 14:49.9; 12. Tyrell Zieske 16:14.1.

Junior: 1. William Saari (FMT) 13:58; 2. Juan Castaneda (SJ) 14:16.6; 3. Connor Artner (FMT) 14:29.6; 4. Paul Salentiny (HLO) 15:58.8; 5. Austin Knickrehm (SJ) 16:11.8. BEA Results: Cameron Germain 17:18.9; 13. James Greer 21:58.3.

Sophomore: 1. Marco Crispin (SJ) 14:37.9; 2. Mason Bobb (JCC) 15:08.9; 3. Clayton Cavness (JCC) 15:22.2; 4. Caden Swoboda (MLA) 15:24.2; 5. Brennan Hoehn (WEM/JWP) 15:34.7.

Freshman: 1. Camden Janiszeski (LUV) 15:17.5; 2. Kaleb Eickhoff (MLA) 15:35.9; 3. Gavin Selly (SP) 15:37; 4. Angel Martinez (BEA) 15:50.3; 5. Brady Bork (LUV) 16:11.1. Fairmont results: 7. Alex Cruz 16:57.3; 14. Gavin Artner 17:57.9. Other BEA Results: 9. Damion Mahlstedt 17:15.4; 11. Carson Strukel 17:24.3; 21. Eli Paz 22:26.5; Shane Levenhagen 22:43.5.

8th-Grade Individual Results

Girls Division (Top 5 — 1 Mile): 1. Jenna DeBates (LUV) 6:04.8; 2. Katelin Flack (LCWMN) 6:12.4; 3. Kayla Bloemendaal (LUV) 6:26.7; 4. Ava Terfehr (FMT) 6:30.8; 5. Katelyn Ojeda Callejas (SJ) 7:00.5. BEA results: 12. Leah Becker 8:11.5; 16. Reaan Bromeland 8:59.2.

Boys Division (Top 5 — 1 Mile): 1. Kody Wassman (MLA) 5:22; 2. Tim Salentiny (HLO) 5:23.5; 3. Evan Paplow (JCC) 5:28.5; 4. Ben Spaeth (JCC) 5:45.5; 5. Memphis James (WEM/JWP) 5:47.7. Fairmont results: 21. Sebastian Castro 6:47.7; 27. Alex Kastning 7:46.1.

7th Grade Individual Results

Girls Division (Top 5 — 1 Mile): 1. Macy Hanson (FMT) 5:50.1; 2. Carys Gudahl (FMT) 6:24.9; Brooklin Hinze (WEM/JWP) 6:25.2; 4. Kwynn Krause (WEM/JWP) 6:26.1; 5. Neveah Weimert (WEM/JWP) 6:31.8. Other Fairmont results: 9. Ellie Ortega 6:50.8; 10. Samantha Domeier 7:02.8; 18. Rylee Maday 8:02.9; 20. Paige DeBoer 8:27.7; 27. Norah Traetow 9:03. BEA result: 21. Addison Smith 8:34.5.

Boys Division (Top 5 — 1 Mile): 1. Sage Viessman (LUV) 5:33; 2. Quinn Landherr (JCC) 5:33.9; 3. Zach Klassen (MLA) 5:49.9; 4. Evan Bumgardner (LUV) 5:51.3; 5. Owen Janiszeski (LUV) 5:54.9. Fairmont results: 12. Andrew Haugen 6:34.3; 28. Max Baker 9:00.9; 29. Tait Johnson 9:59.9. BEA result: 27. Hayden Vereide 8:54.8.