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Cross country: Knights finish top six in loaded field at Perham

The West Central Area cross country teams challenged themselves at one of the toughest races the Knights will run in during the regular season when they went to Perham on Thursday night.

The Perham Invite featured the top-three ranked teams in Class A -- Perham, WCA and Staples-Motley -- on the boys’ side and a host of other talented Class AA programs in the 27-team field. The Knights finished fifth among that group with 148 points behind Moorhead (58), Perham (59), Fargo North (109) and Bemidji (119).

“With all these schools, the front race pack doesn’t thin out much and there is always races within the race going on,” WCA head coach John Van Kempen said. “Our boys certainly did not back down.”

The Knights’ top-four finishers in Jacob Bright (11th), Kade Runge (21st), Kyle Schill (22nd) and Jack Van Kempen (23rd) all finished in under 17 minutes. Alex Salwasser rounded out WCA’s scoring in 71st place.

“We thought we had maybe given up too many spots to finish well, but it turned out great in the end.” coach Van Kempen said.

Bennet Grove was WCA’s sixth runner in 100th place in 18:32.

“I’m so proud of the way Bennet has come on during his debut season in cross country,” coach Van Kempen said.

Reubens Swanson rounded out the lineup for WCA in 103rd place.

Girls finish sixth

The West Central Area girls also ran a good race as the Knights took sixth with 197 points.

Lakeville South won the meet with 64. Perham (91), Fargo North (131), Moorhead (155) and Staples-Motley (166) rounded out the top five.

“I think one of the things that our kids bring to each meet is that we are a tough bunch of girls and boys who aren’t afraid to lace up the shoes and race against these big schools,” coach Van Kempen said. “There were maybe a few schools with smaller enrollments than us, and our kids have an underdog mentality and aren’t intimidated at all.”

Lexi Bright and Teagan Nelson led the WCA girls in 23rd and 24th place, respectively. Brynn Fernholz was 41st and Ella Van Kempen 42nd.

“Lexi and Teagan came in under 20 minutes and Brynn and Ella were under 21 minutes,” coach Van Kempen said.

Kennedy Porter was next for the Knights in 81st place, while seventh-graders Terina Blascyk (82nd) and Sydney Ulrich (103rd) rounded out the lineup.

“Terina has proven to be one tough competitor for us, and she will only improve with more experience down the stretch,” coach Van Kempen said.

Eric Morken

Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.

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