PERHAM — West Central Area Knights cross country opened their season at the Friday Night Lights Meet in Perham in honor of former Perham competitor Gabe Grunewald, who ran for the Minnesota Gophers and tried to qualify for the Olympics while battling cancer.  She was an amazing athlete and loved getting to the starting line and competing.  

“We tried to go into that meet with her mentality, just enjoy the opportunity to compete and learn,” head coach John Van Kempen said. “There were some really good teams there with Perham and Pequot Lakes.  Perham is ranked number No. 1 in the state for the girls and No. 2 for the boys.  Pequot Lakes was ranked No. 5 for the girls.  Our girls ran well, not beating either team, we had two new members in Halle Foslien and Liz Rustad running varsity in their first meet.  Both, usual volleyball players for the Knights in the fall, came out for cross country due their season being postponed.”  

All meets this season are limited to three teams and a maximum of 25 runners per race.  Foslien finished in 15th and Rustad in 16th, but Van Kempen expects that will improve with experience.  Lexi Bright ran with a couple state ranked runners, finishing in second and Taylor Bennet also ran well, finishing in fifth overall.  Terina Blascyk was Perham’s third runner in 14th.  

“We never have to question Terina’s effort as she is willing to give it her all in competitions,” Van Kempen said.  

Other finishers for the Knights were Alexa Blume (19th), Sydney Ulrich (21st) and Chloe Larue (22nd).  Larue has missed the previous two seasons due to injury. 

The boy’s race featured No. 1 ranked team in the state (WCA Knights) vs the No. 2 ranked Perham Yellowjackets and Pequot Lakes, the Knights did not disappoint, beating both teams with a score of 32, compared to Perham’s 40 and Pequot Lakes’ 49. 

“It was a big meet for our first one of the season, the Yellowjackets will for sure  get better but we love competing against the best program in the state year after year,” Van Kempen said. “Kyle Schill had a great start, running with the leaders and eventually finishing in third. Our success in recent seasons has been because of our ability to pack run.”  

Kade Runge, Alex Salwasser, Shad Swanson and Reubens Swanson hung in there together, finishing in fourth, seventh, eighth and tenth.  

“Shad has looked good early season and will be heavily counted on to help us reach our team goals.  Reubens had a great race, finishing the last 200 meters by sprinting, tracking down and passing opponents which sealed the victory for us,” Van Kempen said. 

Peyton Hanson, new to the varsity, ran solid finishing in 15th, followed by Dane Anderson in 18th and Roman Mihailovski in 19th.  Perham’s goals for all its teams is to improve from week to week, hoping that there will be an opportunity at the end of the season to advance. 

Perham’s junior high girls also had some fresh faces, finishing in second as a team with Macy Grosz in third, Nora Anderson (fourth), Blair Reuter (eighth), Mya Foslien (ninth), Brooklyn Strobel (10th), Whitney Blume (13th), Izzy Strunk (23rd), Lily Mahoney (24th) and Stephanie Reeve (28th).  The boys junior high also finished second with Sam Hanson leading the way in third, Carter Kjesbo (seventh), Aaron Biss (eighth), Ben Bye (ninth), and  Simon Moritz (14th).  Perham’s junior varsity boys won their race by being able to run as a pack.  New team member Neko Morn led the Yellowjackets, finishing in fifth, followed by Isaac Kreft (sixth), Eli Bergman (seventh), Tyler Biss (eighth), Jack Courrier (ninth) and Anthony Sykora (11th).  We had six runners in the top 11 spots for these guys. 

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