- Rolling hills and comfortable temperatures greeted the Pipestone Ara cross country teams Thursday afternoon at the Prairie View course in Worthington.
While the hills presented a new challenge for those who’ve never competed on the course, the Arrows ran extremely well in each of the four races on tap.
“Coming off Tuesday, I know everybody was a little banged up; we trained through it and everyone ran hard today,” Pipestone Area head coach Mark Moeller said. “They just kind of blocked it out today and competed.”
The Pipestone Area girls’ varsity and JV squads (73 points) raced together over 5K and claimed a well-deserved runner-up finish between Murray County Central (28) and Adrian/Ellsworth (101).
Back for the first time since an early-season injury, junior Taylor Post paced the Arrow girls with the first of four top-20 finishes – clocking in at 21:16.51 to place seventh overall in a field of 83 runners. Freshman teammate Alivia Fruechte was a close second for the Arrows, placing ninth overall in a time of 21:26.03, while classmate Samantha Stokesbary was a strong third on the team with a mark of 22:38.82.
“I PR’d, which is really surprising,” Stokesbary said. “It was windy and I didn’t feel like I was running faster, but it turned out to be a pretty good time. I think what we’re doing in practice is helping and I’ve enjoyed working with our new coach; he’s a good coach.”
Stokesbary, who raced well in the Arrows’ opening event of the season, the Augustana Twilight meet, has her sights set on trimming another 30 seconds off her best before the postseason.
“My legs are burning right now, but it’s a good burn,” she said. “Today I got 22:38, but I’m hoping to get down to 22 minutes. If I could get to the high 21s, I’d be really happy.”
Also returning after an injury, junior Naomi Wallace came in 17th overall with a time of 22:44.12. Senior teammate Brooklyn Goelz (23:59.4) wasn’t far off the pace in 26th, while junior Breelee Berkenpas was 10 spots back (36th) in a time of 25:25.57.
Aurora Winsel and Paula Valdivieso came in roughly together, placing 55th and 57th, respectively, in times of 27:35.21 and 27:50.9, while Gianna Basche (29:06.0) and Elizabeth Sanchez (30:25.05) rounded out the Arrows in the 67th and 79th positions.
Four young Arrows competed in the girls’ 1,600-meter jr. high event. Amelia Bucher and Laura Van Ipren led the PAS charge, placing fifth and sixth, respectively, in times of 8:07.96 and 8:08.78, while Mackenley DeWilde (8:22.28) and Josie Danks (8:28.19) kept the Arrows in the top half of the 24-runner field with their eighth and ninth place finishes.
PAS senior Aiden Vos paced the Arrows in the boys’ varsity/JV combined 5K event, clocking in at 18:31.74 to place 32nd in the 92-harrier field. Lucas Zupp (18:51.58), who continues to impress in the early stages of the season, was hot on Voss’ heels in the 37th position.
“This is my first time here and it felt good,” Zupp said. “There are some hills, but coming down them compensates for that. I feel really good at the start of this season. Normally, I don’t feel as good early, so I have high hope for this season. I’d like to break into the 19s, hopefully. It’s going to take more conditioning, and I’m thinking Luverne might be the course where I can do it.”
PAS senior Merrick Heidebrink (57th) was second on the Arrows’ side, coming across the tape at 20:35.96, while Kristopher Eischens was a strong third on the team, clocking in at 21:08.55 to place 61st overall. Kaden Mastbergen (71st) rounded out the Arrows in the event, finishing in a time of 21:51.22.
The Arrows had a pair of boys in the 1,600-meter jr. high race that featured 43 runners. Luis Ruiz-Perez clocked in at 8:27.68 to place 33rd, while Joshua Zupp turned in a time of 10:19.64 to place 43rd.
Although the PAS boys were without the services of senior Caden Strasser and junior Landon Johnson Thursday afternoon due to injury, Coach Moeller is quite pleased with how his teams have trained and competed in their two events of this campaign.
“Moral has been good and the captains have done a good job of leading in practice, holding everyone accountable,” he said. “That makes my job easier as a coach and we have a lot of momentum, mentally, going forward right now. You need that when you’re starting to feel nagging injuries coming up. You have to put in a lot of work to get you through this point of the season; that way, when we taper for those hard meets, it’s going to pay off.
“We go to Madison (Tuesday, Sept. 20), Slayton (Sept. 27) and Willmar (Oct. 1), and then we’ll try to rest ourselves for Luverne (Oct. 6), where we’ll see a lot of tough teams in the section. We’ll see where we’re going from there and have an idea of what we can do in the postseason.”