Cool temperatures and moderate winds greeted more than 10 teams of harriers from southwest Minnesota and Sioux Fall. S.D. at the Luverne Invitational cross country meet Thursday afternoon in Luverne – the sight of the Section 3A meet, Oct. 27.
Six groups of runners competed in four events on the day with the varsity and JV squads combined for the girls’ and boys’ 5K races and the Jr. High competitors racing at a distance of 3,200 meters.
“I think coming off a big week with Slayton and Willmar, a couple tough races, and getting on a nice flat course let the kids feel fast,” Pipestone Area head coach Mark Moeller said. “Across the board, the kids ran really well and I’m happy with the time they came in with.
“As a unit, we ran really well and that gives me an idea of where I can start placing kids for conference and sections – a good baseline going into the postseason.”
PAS junior Taylor Post, sixth overall in the field of 75, clocked in at 20 minutes, 51.45 seconds to lead the Arrow girls in the combined varsity/JV 5K event. After dropping off the lead pack with 2,000 meters to go, Post fended off several challenges to her position and was quick of the final hill to the finish line.
Freshmen teammates Alivia Fruechte and Samantha Stokesbary weren’t far off the pace in placing second and third for the Arrows, the former crossing the tape at 22:24.3 to place 21st overall and the latter posting a mark of 22:39.68 to finish 28th overall.
Junior Naomi Wallace was behind the pair, clocking in at 23:09.83 to place 34th overall, while senior Brooklyn Goelz (23:49.46) and eighth-grader Amelia Bucher (24:12.58) completed the Arrows in the 43rd and 45th positions, respectively.
Senior Breelee Berkenpas ran a strong race in placing 53rd overall in a time of 25:11.82, freshman teammate Aurora Winsel was five places back in a time of 26:01.5, while classmate Alyvia Caskey (26:31.23) and juniors Paula Valdivieso (26:52.74) and Elizabeth Sanchez (29:36.34) wrapped up the Arrows’ entries in the 64th, 66th and 74th positions overall.
As a team, the Arrows were fourth of the seven complete sides, finishing with 115 points. Host Luverne edged Canby/Minneota by a point, 46-47, while Lac qui Parle Valley (74) placed third.
In the girls Jr. High race, Josie Danks paced a three-arrow contingent – coming in at 15:32.32 to place fourth in a field of 33. Laura Van Iperen (15:54.65) and Mackenley DeWilde (15:55.9) placed seventh and eighth, respectively.
“I think they’re realizing there’s not a lot of season left, so there’s a lot more drive and ambition going into the races,” Moeller said. “You can tell in their demeanor warming up, even before the race, their attitudes are a little different. It’s like, ‘we have to take care of business today.’ That’s a good sign to see from them because you know they care and they’re getting nervous. That’s what you want to see as a coach because this is where we want to execute and run our fastest.”
On the boys’ side, the meet had 10 complete teams entered in the combined varsity/JV event. Host Luverne once again triumphed, posting a low of 67 points. Canby/Minneota (90) was second and Windom placed third with 99 points. Pipestone Area was seventh overall in the team standings with 188 points.
Senior Caden Strasser led the PAS boys into battle at 5K, clocking in at 17:14.46. Strasser had led the race on more than one occasion, but eventually fell back over the final 1,500 meters before fighting off a late change from Lakeview’s Ethan Schwankel (7th) heading into the chute.
“I think runners like Caden and Taylor are just going to have to run hard and hit their splits if they’re going to qualify for state again,” Moeller said. “It’s hard to be in this sport without comparing yourself to other people; you see how fast they run, how fast they’re getting done with a mile … two miles, and our kids are going to have to trust their splits and their training. That’s what’s going to carry them through. There’s nothing we can control about those other teams, so we have to worry about ourselves.”
Fellow senior Aiden Voss ran extremely well in placing 16th overall in a time of 18:16.44, while sophomore teammate Landon Johnson managed to finish in the top half of the 132-harrier field – crossing the finish line 65th in a time of 20:03.23.
Lucas Zupp (20:51.74), Merrick Heidebrink (21:04.84) and Kristofer Eischens (21:08.6) completed the Arrows scoring in 84th, 86th and 89th, respectively. Kaden Mastbergen also competed for the Arrows in the combined event, placing 114th overall in a time of 22:34.17.
As in the girls’ Jr. High race, the PAS boys had a trio compete at 3,200 meters. Newcomer Alex Villagrana paced the group, clocking in at 14:56.99 to place 16th in a field of 42. Luis Ruiz-Perez was 21st overall in a time of 16:05.15 and teammate Josh Zupp came in 40th at 19:33.66.
The Arrows will compete in the Big South Conference Championships Tuesday in Fairmont.