The 43rd Milaca Mega Cross Country Meet Saturday was, simply, another great one.
The temperature was around 46 degrees when the first event started at 10 a.m. and gradually warmed to around 60 when the final race ended at mid-afternoon. A breeze kept the air moving.
The conditions were near perfect for runners and spectators and there were thousands of both at Stones Throw Golf Course.
“A quick count showed we had 134 schools and around 4,300 runners who finished their races,” said Mega Meet Director Dave Dillan. “There were probably a couple hundred kids who didn’t finish their race or didn’t run.
“Our staff estimated that there were around 3,000 spectators spread out over the course. Once again, things went very well. Things went so smoothly that I was able to watch parts of the races and once again there were a lot of great teams and individuals to watch. I really enjoy seeing how great a time the schools and spectators have. That makes everyone on the staff feel good.”
In the boys events, Stillwater successfully defended its Class AAAA crown, Hutchinson won Class AAA honors, Minnehaha Academy won the Class AA title and Long Prairie-Grey Eagle prevailed in Class A.
It was the fifth Mega Meet Class AAAA title in a row for Stillwater, which faced a challenge from Perham, which had elected to move up to Class AAAA from Class AA where it was the defending champion.
Perham senior Hurley Keeghan won the Class AAAA individual title in 15:33.4 over 5,000 meters.
Stillwater retained its title with a score of 70 as Pony runners placed sixth, seventh, 10th, 19th and 28th. Perham placed second with 84 points as Yellowjacket runners finished first, 11th, 12th, 20th and 40th.
“We ran how we’ve been running this season,” said Stillwater Coach Scott Christensen, whose team is ranked No. 2 behind Wayzata in the Class AA state ratings. “We were steady and solid, but not jaw-dropping spectacular.
“We’ll continue to work hard. Perham had nothing to prove to us – we already knew it is a great team. It was a good day for running.”
“It was fun to run against Stillwater,” said Perham Coach Jeff Morris. “And, there were other great teams and runners in the event.
“We finished 102 points ahead of the third-place team against that competition. We’re proud of Keeghan Hurley, who had his personal-best time which was also the second fastest time in the meet.”
Other individual champions included senior Isaiah Barlow of Hutchinson in Class AAA, who set a new Class AAA record with a time of 15:30.3, junior Ephraim Bird of Minnehaha Academy, who the Class AA race in 15:55.8, and senior Ryan Phillips of Redwood Valley, who won the Class A title in 16:23.2.
Barlow broke the previous AAA mark of 15:42.4 by Joey Duerr of Chaska in 2010.
East Ridge won the girls Class AAAA title, Monticello successfully defended its Class AAA crown, Perham won the Class AA title and Trinity River Ridge captured Class A honors.
“Our girls pulled off the biggest surprise of the day,” said coach Morris. “It was very special and one of the biggest wins for the girls since they placed second at state in 2010.”
Bemidji junior Jenna Truedson set a Class AAAA record with a 4,000-meter time of 14:00.0, breaking the mark of 14:06.1 she set winning the race in 2012.
Senior Martha Hubbell of Visitation won the Class AAA race in 14:30.8, junior Alaysia Freetly of Lac qui Parle Valley set the pace in Class AA with a time of 14:55.6 and junior Kayla Huhnerkoch of Redwood Valley won the Class A race in 14:46.2.
Redwood Valley claimed two varsity individual titles.
For Milaca, junior Alex Ploeger placed 29th in the Class AA girls race with a time of 16:23.5 and senior Cameron Sundberg finished 36th in the AA boys race in 18:00.0.
“Alex and Cam ran great,” said Dillan, who is also Milaca coach. “We had kids spread out in a lot of races and several posted their personal-best times.
“Milaca is hosting sections later on at Stones Throw, so this was a good experience for our runners.”
Milaca competed at the Pierz Pioneer Stampede Monday, Sept. 16 at the Pierz Golf Course where the girls placed 10th and the boys placed 14th.
Brainerd won the girls crown while Crosby-Ironton won the boys title.
Ploeger led Milaca as she placed 19th in 16:50.8. Ninth-grader Emma Bolt was 62nd in 17:59.9, junior Irina Danilyuk was 68th in 18:05.6, sophomore Lizzy Fordyce was 86th in 18:44.2 and senior Tonia Holm was 96th in 19:02.5.
Senior Courtney Alama of Annandale won the girls race in 14:57.3.
Sundberg placed 30th in the boys race in 18:12.0 while eighth-grader Jon Hall was 45th in 18:35.3.
St. Cloud Cathedral senior Nick Golebiowski won the boys race in 16:20.3.
The Wolves were at the Mora Invitational Sept. 10 where both the boys and girls placed fourth.
The host Mustangs won both the boys and girls titles.
Sundberg placed 5th in 18:12 while Hall was 19th in 19:13 and junior Dray Thomas-Ferry was 26th in 19:35.
Ploeger placed sixth in 16:54 while Bolt was 22nd in 17:49 and Danilyuk was 28th in 18:17.
Milaca travels to the Becker Invitational Tuesday, Oct. 1, at 4 p.m..