The pace was fast and furious during the Roncalli Invitational Cross Country Meet Thursday afternoon at Lee Park Golf Course.
Aberdeen Roncalli won the girls’ team title by a single point over Great Plains Lutheran and by two points over Aberdeen Christian. Clark-Willow Lake won the boys’ division with the Aberdeen Central JV second.
The girls’ race was fast from start to finish. Halle Bauer of Great Plains Lutheran and Madison Zirbel of Dakota Hills broke away from the pack and dueled each other before Bauer, a sophomore, pulled away for the victory.
“That’s how our last few meets have been going. We were both kind of together during the whole race,” Bauer said. “I just try to stay with her most of the race and then towards the end try to pull ahead as much as I can.”
That move came with about 400 meters left on Thursday.
“It was about a little over a quarter mile to go I tried to go ahead of her and start picking up the pace a little bit towards the end,” Bauer said.
That brisk pace impacted the rest of the field.
Katie Steger of Aberdeen Christian, who finished fifth, was not used to a start like that.
“Normally the way I race is, I go out, I sprint, then I slow down and then I speed up throughout the race,” Steger said. “That’s what I’ve learned this year, but because they went out so fast, it really shook me up.”
Steger, a sophomore, was able to recover and placed in between Roncalli’s Paige Schmidt who was fourth and Sarah Schmidt who was sixth.
The invitational marked the only home meet of the season for the Knights.
“Sometimes it slightly stresses me out,” Steger said of the having a gallery watching the race, “but I like it better because at every point in the race where you’re struggling they’re their to help you out.”
O’Neill also set a strong pace and was able to run away from a pair of Deuel runners (Wyatt Anderson who was second and Ricky Berndt was finished third).
“Deuel is almost at all of our meets, so I know those two. We run a lot together,” O’Neill said. “They work. They’re really good at pushing. About the second lap I started to kick it in, that’s when I pulled away.”
Like Bauer, O’Neill also ran on Tuesday in Webster and will run again next Monday.
The senior said his team tries to make the most out of their recovery days.
“We stretch a lot after practices and stuff,” O’Neill said. “We really make sure we get our recovery days in.”
O’Neill’s time of 17:53.50 is his best of the season.
“It’s my best time this year,” O’Neill said, “but hopefully, I’ll still get it down.”
Esten Foss, Rylan Johnson and Isaac Ligon of Central’s JV finished fifth, sixth and seventh, respectively.
Walker Larson of Christian was 12th.
Roncalli was led by Paul Gutenkauf who finished 15th.
“I race for time a lot, not so much for place,” Gutenkauf said. “I just keep in mind my time and try to beat it.”
Gutenkauf, a sophomore, said he doesn’t think much about running in front of the home-town spectators while he is competing.
“I think about it a lot up til the race,” Gutenkauf said, “but when I’m in the race it doesn’t seem to matter, because you’re just running trying to beat people.”
Roncalli coach Brady Lesnar was pleased with how his girls competed during the meet.
“I thought they ran very well. I know the girls were very motivated when they saw who they were running against for sure,” Lesnar said. “The Zirbel girl from Dakota Hills and the girl from Great Plains they are very very good runners, so there was a little bit of motivation to try to keep up with them.”
Lesnar also said Gutenkauf keeps improving.
“He’s getting stronger. That’s fun to see,” Lesnar said. “He hasn’t hit his stride, yet. Just knowing that there’s potential there, hopefully, he keeps getting better.”
Lesnar also pointed out the efforts of Isaac Price.
“He’s really coming along,” Lesnar said.
The Cavaliers compete in Huron on Saturday and Faulkton on Wednesday.
Christian coach Noah Aderhold was also pleased with the way his runners performed.
“We wanted to be competitive in this race. Roncalli is here. They’re in our region now being Class B, so we knew we wanted to compete against them,” Aderhold said. “This is a course that we’re familiar with. It’s always pretty fast and fun to be out here.”
He pointed out the course was even faster thanks to Bauer and Zirbel.
“They started out fast. Initially it looked like we were kind of out of it, because we were farther back, but I think we ran a little more conservative, which ended up being OK,” Aderhold said. “They started out so strong and they finished well. I think both of them were under 6 (minutes) in the first mile which is just really fast.”
Aderhold said Larson keeps improving as the season goes on.
“He looked good,” Aderhold said. “We paced pretty well, where we wanted to pace today, so we’re moving in the right direction.”
The Knights compete in an invitational in Clark on Thursday.
To see complete meet results, click on the following link:
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