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Perham Cross Country (G)

Thursday, November 1, 2012
Cross Country (G)

Pair of sisters leading overlooked, and underrated Lady Jacket CC team into State

By John George - Perham, MN

A pair of sisters (l-r): Sydney Karels (72), Ciarrin Covington (73), Brynnan Covington (yellow hat) and Racole Karels (76) will lead the No. 9 Lady Jackets into the Class A State Meet Nov. 3 in Northfield. (John George photo)

It’s been a magical year for the Perham boys cross country team.  They’ve been ranked No. 1 in Class A all season, and are currently ranked No. 1 in the nation among small schools.  They’ve been getting a lot of publicity, and it’s been well deserved, and well handled by the team members.

But let’s not lose sight of the fact the Lady Jackets have a pretty good team as well.  Led by a pair of sisters, Ciarrin and Brynnan Covington, and Racole and Sydney Karels, the Perham girls have been flying under the radar this season, and that’s fine with them.  For now.

“I’m happy for them,” Ciarrin, the lone returning senior on the team said of the boys squad.  “But I’m very excited for us.  We have a great team with no expectations going into State.”

Ciarrin is the emotional and spiritual leader of the Lady Jackets.  But her younger sister Brynnan, an 8th grader, has taken over the lead as the team’s top runner.  She is coming off a 4th place finish in the Heart O’ Lakes Championships and a 5th place finish at the Section 8A Meet.

“Ciarrin is awesome,” Brynnan said.  “She’s inspiring to us and she can push us when we don’t want to practice.”

Coming from a family of runners, it’s no surprise that the Covington girls have been naturals for the Lady Jackets.  Their mom, Raeanna, was a track champion in college and continues to run and compete in 5K races.  Ciarrin admitted having a slow start to her career in the Perham “Mighty Mite” program, but she’s developed into a 5-time State participant.

Brynnan remembers winning her 1st ever race in Mighty Mite’s, and she’s been leading the pack ever since.  She will be entering her 2nd State Meet, but hopes all the nerves are gone this time around.

“I was pretty nervous,” Brynnan said of her 1st State experience. “I was still nervous during the race when Sydney ran by me without a shoe and I thought, ‘Whoa, I better get going’.”

Sydney is Jacket freshman Sydney Karels, who has been a consistent top-3 runner for the team this year.  Older sister Racole, a junior, has been a mainstay on the team for the last 4 years.

Neither had running “in their blood”, but both have developed into All-State caliber runners.

“I wasn’t to sure about it,” Racole said about joining cross country as an 8th grader.  After a “decent” experience in Mighty Mite CC in elementary school, Racole was on the swim team as a 7th grader.

“I did O.K. in track in 7th grade track,” Racole added.  “I didn’t think that (Jeff) Morris noticed.”

He did. 

In 8th grade, she was on the CC team (through the encouragement of Sam Dreier and her mom, Kristi, and with the knowledge of friend Lizzie Fudge joining the team as well), and coming up with a 5th place finish at the HOL’s and as a 9th grader, she was the HOL champion, all while helping the Lady Jackets to a pair of back-to-back runner-up finishes at State.

“I thought it wasn’t that easy at first, but I was doing good,” Racole said.  “It took a lot of work.  I got to the point where the running got easier, but I put a lot more mental pressure on myself because I was so good when I was younger.”

In Racole’s 2nd year as a freshman, she “forced” younger sister Sydney, then a 7th grader, to join.  In her 1st run with the team, Sydney couldn’t even go 10 minutes, Racole said.  Something Sydney didn’t deny.

“She nagged me into it,” Sydney said.  “I couldn’t even make it through that 1st 10 minute run.  I walked part of the way.  It’s taken a lot of work, but once I got started, it wasn’t as hard.  It takes steps.  I don’t regret it for a second.”

It didn’t take long for Sydney to start outrunning her older sister.

“There was a sibling rivalry at 1st,” Racole said.  “I remember girls asking how I’d act the 1st time she beat me and I’d say, ‘What? She’s not going to do that.’  I didn’t like it at 1st when she finally did beat me, but now I’m just so happy for her. It doesn’t bug me.”

“It’s been great running with my sister,” Sydney said.  “Especially having her around when I forget practice.”

Both sets of sisters admitted that running has brought them closer together.  And having the younger sisters surge ahead as the faster runners (for now) sits just fine with everyone.

“She’s become my best friend,” Ciarrin said of Brynnan as they’ve trained together the last 3 years.  “It doesn’t bother me that she’s faster.  I’m determined to catch up with her.”

“They’re both such mature runners and so fast,” Racole added of Brynnan and  Sydney.

The combination of youth and experience could make for a good combination this weekend at State.

The Perham girls are ranked No. 9 in State in the final regular season rankings.  Last year, they finished in 10th place at State.  Both are numbers that frustrate the girls.

“I almost wish we weren’t ranked,” Racole said.  “Then it would be an even bigger surprise for everybody when we do what we can do at State.”

“Another 10th place finish would be very disappointing,” Sydney added.  “We have much higher expectations.”

How high of expectations?

“At the beginning of the year, I think we would have been happy getting on the podium (top-3),” Ciarrin said.  “But know, if we do what we think we can do, maybe we can be top-2.  We’re going to have to really want it.”

The Lady Jackets will run at the State Meet for the 10th straight season as they won their 3rd in Section 8A crown in 4 years and 6th in 8 years.  Earlier this year, they won their 9th straight Heart O’ Lakes Conference title.

The State Class A State Meet will be Saturday, Nov. 3 in Northfield at St. Olaf College.  The boy’s will run 1st at 10 a.m., with the girls set to run at 11 a.m.

“We can do this,” Racole said.  “Nobody is expecting us to do that well down there, but we know we can surprise people.”

“It’s our time,” Sydney added.  “We could, and should be a good team again next year, but we’re so much better than we were last year.  We know we’re ready to step-up.  There’s no one dominant team in the girls race like in the boys.  We think we can run with anyone down there.”

“We’re not going to stop now,” Brynnan said.  “We’ve got to keep pushing and finish strong this week.”

“That’s O.K. if everyone underestimates us,” Ciarrin added.  “That just pushes us.  We think it’s wide open.  Why not us?”


Here’s a career recap for the ‘Sister Act’ lead the Lady Jackets into State.

Brynnan Covington (8th Grade)

HOL: 2012 (4th, 15:42),  2011 (10th, 16:58).

Section: 2012 (5th, 15:22),  2011 (9th, 16:33).

State: 2011 (79th, 16:18).


Ciarrin Covington (Senior)

HOL: 2012 (9th, 16:12),  2011 (20th, 18:24), 2010 (13th, 16:28),  2009 (11th, 16:16), 2008 (18th, 17:31)

Section: 2012 (12th, 15:40),  2011 (18th, 17:00),  2010 (23rd, 16:47), 2009 (13th, 17:26), 2008 (25th, 16:55).

State: 2011 (110th, 16:52),  2010 (109th, 16:51),  2009 (149th, 18:20),  2008 (90th, 16:31).


Sydney Karels (Freshman)

HOL: 2012 (8th, 16:09),  2011 (11th, 17:21),  2010 (20th, 16:47)

Section: 2012 (15th, 15:51),  2011 (4th, 16:02),  2010 (40th, 17:21)

State: 2011 (62nd, 16:05),  2010 (110th, 16:52)


Racole Karels (Junior)

HOL: 2012 (17th, 16:38),  2011 (16th, 17:50),  2010 (1st, 15:44),  2009 (5th, 15:56)

Section: 2012 (21st, 16:13),  2011 (21st, 17:08),  2010 (14th, 16:14), 2009 (15th, 17:39)

State: 2011 (95th, 16:35),  2010 (62nd, 16:06),  2009 (58th, 16:28).

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