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Published September 30 2011

Quirky Perham cross country team shares plenty of hobbies off the track

Perham, Minn. - Rankings suggest the Perham boys cross country team is having a good season, but take a closer look and the rankings suggest something else.

Perham, as a team, is ranked No. 2 in the state among Class A schools. Yet when it comes to individual rankings, there isn’t a single Yellowjackets runner ranked. Some teams might take offense. Perham, however, is completely fine with it.

“For me, more for them even, it makes it that much more special,” said Perham coach Jeff Morris. “Because it makes everyone realize that everyone plays a part. It’s not about who the best runner is, but who the best team is.”

Taking that kind of mentality is why Perham finds itself primed for what could be an 11th consecutive trip to the state tournament.

Perham won a state title last season, its third in Morris’ decade-long tenure.

But what could make this title run special is the fact that the Yellowjackets are doing it as a team.

“We had some people come down to the ‘man cave’ in the summer,” said junior Brady Speicher. “We got together and played some (‘Call of Duty: Modern Warfare’) and just bonded.”

Ah yes, the infamous “Call of Duty.” Those not familiar with the game affectionately known as “COD”, it is a tactical operations video game where one of the features is working together as a team to kill a terrorist cell.

So it might not be like the good old days of going camping, but it is one of the things that has made this year’s team closer.

Being a team has been a focal point this year because the Yellowjackets only return three runners from last year’s team, which includes Speicher.

The other two returners are juniors Nick Carignan and Dalton Dahms, which means Perham doesn’t have a single senior and will return this entire team next year.

And that group includes Keegan Hurley, who was rated as one of the top runners in the state last season as a freshman. Hurley, who transferred to Perham this year, is ineligible to run varsity competition because he was enrolled at Fergus Falls, Morris said.

“Everyone just gets along so well and everyone’s personality meshes, because we are basically the same kind of people,” Dahms said.

But as Morris put it, cross country runners are “a little different” when it comes to having fun.

He’s not kidding.

Aside from defending America’s freedom via a video game, they’ll go play “Lord of the Rings.”

No, not watch the movie. But they’ll go out in the woods and actually re-enact the movie.

Carignan admitted this is a group that before meets will listen to anything ranging from techno music to the Backstreet Boys before a meet.

“Before a meet we do something called, ‘The Wiz’,” he said. “It’s where we get in a circle and go back and forth and start the ‘I Believe’ chant and we end it by yelling, ‘Go Yellowjackets.’”

Morris said for the quirks his team has, it is a very goal-oriented group.

It is a group that’s serious about spending time together and that was evident before Thursday’s practice as they got in a circle and were high-fiving and hugging each other.

That same need to succeed as a group even goes into the classroom.

“Last year as a team, our grade point average was 3.98,” Morris said. “This year the goal is to make sure that everyone has a GPA above a 3.0. These are the kinds of things that show they like working together as a group.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Ryan S. Clark at (701) 241-5548.

Clark’s Force blog can be found at slightlychilled.areavoices.com