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Cross Country

Boekelheide, Northwestern boys, Christian girls win Region 1B titles

Northwestern’s Ella Boekelheide, left, runs for the finish line ahead of Frederick Area’s Morgan Sumption, right, during the girls varsity race at the Region 1B Cross Country Meet in Webster Thursday. Boekelheide went on to win the race with Sumption placing second. Photo by John Davis taken 10/14/2021

WEBSTER – After more than 20 minutes out on the course, it all came down to a sprint at the finish in Webster Thursday afternoon.

Ella Boekelheide of Northwestern edged Morgan Sumption of Frederick by slightly more than one second to win the girls’ race at the Region 1B Cross Country Meet. Daniel Ayoroa of James Valley Christian won the boys’ race.

Aberdeen Christian won the girls’ team championship while Northwestern won the boys’ team title.

Boekelheide was able to outkick Sumption at the finish to win the girls’ individual crown.

“I kept telling myself you have to go 100 percent like someone is still in front of you,” Boekelheide said. “You can’t think you’re done until you’re done. That last part felt like a lot longer than it actually was.”

Boekelheide, Sumption and Aberdeen Roncalli’s Paige Schmidt ran next to each other all race, each leading at one time or another. The trio was still intact until late in the race when Boekelheide and Sumption started a sprint to the finish.

“That was a good race,” said Boekelheide after securing the victory.

The boys’ race was far less dramatic as Ayoroa led from start to finish. The senior got out quickly and never looked back.

“I came here to give everything I had, try to glorify God and give Him the credit for it,” Ayoroa said.

He ran in front of a group of Northwestern runners who ended up taking three of the next four spots behind him.

“I kind of knew that Northwestern was going to come out hard. They always do,” Ayoroa said. “They’re bigger than me, actually.”

Lincoln Woodring led the pack of Wildcats, finishing second in the race. Teammates Justin Haven and Nathan Melius finished fourth and fifth, respectively to give Northwestern the team championship.

“It feels amazing,” Woodring said of winning the team title. “We worked so hard all year. Just every workout we’ve pushed ourselves so hard.”

That competitive nature came out at the end of the race when Haven passed Melius right before the finish line.

“We’re so competitive,” Woodring said. “Every practice we’re always pushing each other.”

Aberdeen Christian placed three girls in the top seven to defend its region title from a year ago.

Rachel Beaner led the Knights in fourth with Grace Steger in fifth and Katie Steger in seventh.

Katie Steger returned to the lineup after an injury sidelined her for the past couple of weeks.

“My sister and Rachel have really built up their courage as I’ve been out,” Katie Steger said. “They were ahead of me. That helped keep me going.”

Katie Steger said she felt like could have had a better time, but is still getting back into race shape.

“I feel like I could have come in a little bit more today,” she said, “but I think with hills and just not running, I’m not used to it.”

During practice Aberdeen Christian coach Noah Aderhold tried to convey to Steger that she still had what it took to compete, race shape or not.

“I wanted to reassure her your mental toughness is still there. When you get to a race like this, whether you’re in really good shape and you’ve been running a lot or we’re not quite sure, it’s guts and it’s heart and she has a lot of that,” Aderhold said. “All three of the girls, you can’t run that well without having a lot determination and they all do.”

The Knights ran their race instead of getting caught up in a fast initial pace, according to Aderhold. They stuck with their strategy and it worked out well.

“It’s very exciting. One of the best races they’ve ran, I think, and easily the best this year,” Aderhold said. “The girls just ran a really smart race. We were not going to get bogged down by trying to be in the front and race something that’s not our race. They just moved up throughout.”

Walker Larson finished seventh to earn another spot in the state meet next week in Sioux Falls.

“He ran really well, just strong and comfortable throughout,” Aderhold said. “He’s looking forward to going to state again and capping off his senior year.”

Roncalli qualified three runners for state. Paige and Sarah Schmidt on the girls’ side and Paul Gutenkauf in the boys’ division.

Paige Schmidt finished third and Sarah Schmidt took eighth.

“I thought Paige and Sarah really came out hard. I thought they competed well,” said Roncalli coach Brady Lesnar. “Sarah was right there. She got tripped up at the bridge. She said once she got up her legs were just done.”

Gutenkauf was also top 10, finishing ninth overall.

“He ran a good race,” Lesnar said. “He was with some good runners.”

Conditions were brisk to the say the least with temperatures in the 40s and a steady breeze to make it feel like the 30s, but with state meet entries on the line, athletes blocked out the elements.

“While I was warming up I was kind of getting scared, because it was a little chilly,” Boekelheide said, “but once you start, your mind goes right to the race and you forget about the weather.”

To see complete meet results, click on the following link:

https://www.athletic.net/CrossCountry/Results/Meet.aspx?Meet=197143&show=all

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