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Central sweeps team titles at Salmi-Sahli meet

Aberdeen Central’s Morgan VanVeen, left, Anneliese Wells, center and Juna Ramey, right, run together during the Salmi/Sahli Invite Thursday at Lee Park Golf Course. Wells finished third, Ramey fifth and VanVeen seventh to help lead the Golden Eagles to the team title. Photo by John Davis taken 9/8/2022

Aberdeen Central used its depth to secure team championships during the annual Salmi-Sahli Invitational cross country meet at Lee Park Golf Course Thursday morning.

The Golden Eagles had four of the top seven runners in the girls’ division to edge Watertown by a single point in the team standings. Central had five of the top 11 runners to run away with the boys’ team title.

“It’s just nice to run at home. I thought we were a little more race ready today,” said Central girls’ coach Bill Martens. “Our training is picking up and our preparation has been good, so that makes a difference.”

A pair of runners took all the drama out of the individual races as Watertown’s Kate McElroy and Pierre’s Jared Lutmer ran away from their respective fields to record victories.

McElroy said a key for her is to have the proper mindset when running.

“I’m trying to work on staying more positive and pushing through the race,” McElroy said.

The eighth-grader got stronger as the race wore on and broke away from a pair of her teammates. She said she had no idea how big of a lead she had when she was running.

“I try not to look where people are in the race,” McElroy said, “because to me it shows a sign of weakness that I’m looking back at the people behind me.”

Watertown’s Kate McElroy, center, runs in the lead ahead of teammate Victoria Smith during the Salmi/Sahli Invite Thursday at Lee Park Golf Course. Photo by John Davis taken 9/8/2022

McElroy placed 15th at the state meet last year as a seventh-grader. While she looked physically strong as she circled the course Thursday, her mental toughness also played a key role.

“I always try to believe in myself. You never put negative stuff in your head,” McElroy said. “If I start with a negative mind, I’m not going to do what I want to.”

Mental toughness is also helping Central’s Annaliese Wells, who led the Golden Eagles with a third-place finish. Wells was unable to compete last season after she broke her ankle.

“I was injured last year, so coming back from an injury was really tough on me,” Wells said. “I feel like that made me mentally strong.”

The freshman started out her career by playing tennis, but switched over to cross country a few years ago.

“Tennis was a really good sport, but for some reason cross country feels like a family to me,” Wells said. “That aspect really helped me as a runner.”

Central’s Juna Ramey finished fifth, Kiana Joerger was sixth, and Morgan VanVeen was seventh.

“We just keep gaining experience. That’s the main thing that we need,” Martens said. “We’d like to develop more depth at the varsity level and just keep moving forward.”

Lutmer bolted out of the blocks quickly and led the boys’ race from start to finish. The junior said he paces himself by how he feels more than anything.

“I just went off base off of feeling,” Lutmer said. “I usually don’t race with a watch.”

Lutmer didn’t need to worry about anybody catching him as he won the event by nearly a minute over the next closest runner. He has some lofty goals in mind for the remainder of the season.

Pierre’s Jared Lutmer runs in the lead during the Salmi/Sahli Invite Thursday at Lee Park Golf Course. Lutmer won the boys varsity race. Photo by John Davis taken 9/8/2022

“I want to win ESD (Eastern South Dakota Conference) and get second at state,” Lutmer said. “I know there’s a good Harrisburg kid up there, too.”

Christian Wells led a strong delegation of Central runners with a third-place finish. The junior outsprinted an opponent at the finish. He said running at home provided a boost he needed.

“At the end of the race it definitely helps for those fans to be there,” Wells said. “It helped me get third place. With all the people yelling at me, I thought I needed to go.”

Wells is part of a junior class that has been thrust into leadership roles this season with the graduation of Josh Martin and Jacob Angerhofer, and no seniors on the squad.

Aberdeen Central’s Christian Wells, left, sprints for the finish line ahead of Watertown’s Ty Sullivan, right, during the Salmi/Sahli Invite Thursday at Lee Park Golf Course. Photo by John Davis taken 9/8/2022

“We definitely do miss Jacob and Josh. Jacob had a big leader role, too,” Wells said. “It’s been a big change, not just for me, but the whole junior class.”

Those underclassmen keep progressing and took more strides on Thursday, according to Central boys’ coach Greg Murley.

“We’re pretty happy with our kids overall and we’re getting better,” Murley said. “Christian had a better start. I though our start was about as good as you could get. We got out and raced.”

Murley said there is still plenty of room for improvement as the Eagles head into the second half of the season.

“We need to do a better job with our training. We’re competing hard,” Murley said. “I think we need to maybe look at what we’re doing with training, first of all as coaches, and then we need to look at how we’re executing it with the athletes.”

Aberdeen Roncalli also competed in the meet. The Cavaliers were led by Addison Cassidy who finished 16th in the girls’ race, and Garrett Griffin who was 25th in the boys’ race.

“There’s some really good AA runners here. Little Addison Cassidy was 16th as a seventh-grader going against varsity-level AA runners. It was good to see her compete,” said Roncalli coach Brady Lesnar. “On the boys’ side I was really happy with Garrett Griffin’s performance. He kind of dug down deep and was able to be our top runner for the day.”

Aberdeen Roncalli’s Addison Cassidy runs for the finish line during the Salmi/Sahli Invite Thursday at Lee Park Golf Course. Photo by John Davis taken 9/8/2022

Roncalli will host its own invitational on Thursday at Lee Park Golf Course.

Central returns to action on Saturday, Sept. 17 when they compete in the Clyde Cotton Invitational at Broadland Creek Golf Course in Huron.

“It’s a pretty big meet next week in Huron and it’s at the state meet course,” Murley said. “Really good teams will be there. We’ll go see what we’re like in that atmosphere.”

The Golden Eagles will compete at a meet in Brookings the following week, site of this year’s conference meet.

“Then we kind of get into some of that ESD,” Murley said. “We get to test out the state meet course next week and following week we test out the ESD course.”

To see complete Salmi-Sahli results, click on the following link:

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