Cross country teams earn Gold honors for academic standings
Of all the accomplishments made by this season's cross country teams at Morris Area/Chokio-Alberta, possibly the most impressive is the Gold Award for Academic Excellence earned by both the girls and the boys.
When averaging the top five GPAs on the boys' varsity team, the Tigers had a 3.82. The girls averaged a 3.83. GPAs above 3.75 are given the Gold Award by the coaches' association.
On the course, the boys' highest finish was third at Lac qui Parle Valley, Long Prairie-Grey Eagle, and Ortonville. The Tigers placed sixth in the West Central Conference and took ninth in the section. This season, the boys' numbers were good with coach Dale Henrich able to fill both a varsity and junior varsity team.
"We really had a young team," said Henrich. "Sophomores and freshmen made up the nucleus of our team."
The boys only had two seniors on the roster, Roy Reese and Beau Keimig.
Reese was the conference champion in two of the last four seasons. Twice he finished in the top 10 at the section meet. Reese participated in two state meets, finishing 103rd as a freshman and 98th as a sophomore.
Keimig finished eighth in the conference two seasons ago and placed in the top 40 at sections both years.
Due to injury, junior Aaron Goulet was only able to run in half the meets, but finished strong in the West Central meet to earn all-conference accolades.
Sophomores on the squad are Max Jerke, Bo Gullickson, Ben Folkman, Chris Tiernan, and Matt Ohren, along with freshmen Eric Staebler, Garner Swenson, Owen Erickson, and Ryan Gray. There was one eighth grader, Dylan DeToy.
Team awards were presented to Ryan Gray - Most Improved, Aaron Goulet - Most Valuable, and Max Jerke - Tiger Award. Aaron Goulet finished in the top 11 at the West Central Conference meet to earn All-Conference honors. Ryan Gray was also recognized by the conference as a Performer of the Week.
The girls finished in second place at LP-GE and Benson, and Ortonville. The girls placed fourth at the conference meet and sixth in sections.
Henrich said he could use more girls in cross country, but was happy to have seven quality runners to fill a team for each meet.
The girls will lose three runners to graduation.
Miranda Day returned to cross country after a year off as a junior. Day helped the Tigers make a complete team and medaled in Benson.
Tahni Jungst was named the team's Most Improved runner two years in a row. MaKenzie Smith placed first in five meets and second in another five. She was the back-to-back conference champion winning the past two seasons. Smith placed second in sections this year after taking fifth last season.
Smith was the Tigers' participant in the state meet where she placed 31st this season, improving from her 45th-place finish last season.
Smith was named to the Academic All-State team by placing in the top 15 at the section level and maintaining a GPA over 3.75.
Smith completes her six-year career as a Tiger runner holding the 4000-meter record with a time of 14:42 set last season.
Junior Adrianela Mendaz will be the only senior on the roster next season.
Joining her with varsity experience will be this year's freshmen Becca Holland and Rachel Rausch and eighth grader Savannah Aanerud.
Team awards were presented to Rachel Rausch - Most Improved, MaKenzie Smith - Most Valuable, and Tahni Jungst - Tiger Award.
Three Tigers finished in the top 11 at the West Central Conference meet. Earning All-Conference honors were Rachel Rausch, MaKenzie Smith, and Savannah Aanerud. Rausch and Smith were also recognized by the conference as Performers of the Week.