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Cross Country

McElroy, Lutmer win races, Central boys’ take team title

Aberdeen Central’s Juna Ramey runs for the finish line during the girls varsity race at the Sahli/Salmi Invitational Cross Country Meet Thursday at Lee Park Golf Course. Ramey finished second in the race. Photo by John Davis taken 9/7/2023

Runners from North and South Dakota flocked to Aberdeen to participate in the Sahli-Salmi Invitational Cross Country Meet at Lee Park Golf Course on Thursday.

Watertown and Pierre runners won individual titles, while Aberdeen Central won the boys’ team championship.

On the girls’ side, Watertown’s Grace McElroy captured the title with a time of 19:29.22, ahead of Aberdeen Central’s Juna Ramey (19:47.66). Watertown’s Kate McElroy finished in third place, while Pierre’s Gwen Richter and Aberdeen Central’s Morgan VanVeen finished in fourth and fifth place, respectively.

McElroy said the win felt good and thanked several people who helped her along the way.

“My team and my mom. She really helped me,” McElroy said.

McElroy said she enjoyed the weather and the course.

Watertown’s Grace McElroy runs in the lead during the girls varsity race at the Sahli/Salmi Invitational Cross Country Meet Thursday at Lee Park Golf Course. Photo by John Davis taken 9/7/2023

“It was good weather. The wind wasn’t too bad and it just felt good,” McElroy said. “There wasn’t too many hills, so that was good.”

Ramey felt good about her runner-up finish, but also noted that there were adjustments that could have been made.

“I feel like I could’ve gotten out a little bit harder, but I kind of stayed back a little bit. Overall, it was pretty good,” Ramey said.

The Central sophomore also enjoyed running on the Lee Park course.

“I honestly really like the course. It’s pretty predictable and you can pace yourself right because you know exactly how much you’re going,” Ramey said. “It’s not like one big lap where you don’t know where you’re going.”

Ramey says she will take her performance and learn from it to continue to grow throughout the season.

“I can just compare my time to the girl in front of me and can work more towards it,” Ramey said. “I can look at my time and be like, oh I can get this much closer to her time.”

Central girls’ cross country coach Eric Pedersen was pleased to see Ramey excel at Thursday’s meet.

“I think it’s really cool to see because she’s improving every single week and not only in terms of just growing some of those leadership skills, but at the same time, the performance aspect of things in trending in the right direction for her,” Pedersen said.

Pedersen was also glad to see his team improve throughout the race.

“We got a lot of really good improvements today, and that’s kind of what I tell the girls every single week is that as long as we’re improving and those types of things, that’s really what makes the biggest difference,” Pedersen said.

Pedersen praised the seniors on the team for playing a leadership role during the race.

“We’ve got a lot of good seniors, like Alexis Ketterling, Angie Lopez, Aurelia Steiger on the JV side, Alivia Burgard, and Kiana Joerger,” Pedersen said. “That’s really our core in terms of leaders on the team, which is really cool to see them come out and push everybody. That’s really what we ask out of those individuals.”

Pedersen said the runners have been motivated to continue to improve as the season progresses.

“We have been moving people around a lot, in terms of JV, middle school even came up a little but, varsity races, we’re really fluid with how we’re moving people around,” Pedersen said.

“The kids do a really good job of taking that stuff in stride. It’s almost something we really use to motivate ourselves to take it and push it to that next level.”

Aberdeen Roncalli eighth-grader Addison Cassady turned in a top 15 finish, claiming 11th place, while teammate Paige Schmidt finished in 15th place.

Cavaliers coach Brady Lesnar was happy to see the team compete well at the meet.

“I thought our girls’ team really came out and competed really well,” Lesnar said. “Our times weren’t what we ran last week, but I thought overall we were competitive and we did what we needed to do.”

Lesnar was excited to see Cassady finish strong during the last lap of the race.

“Going into her last lap she was sitting 15th and so it was good to see her go compete and get after some kids,” Lesnar said. “I thought she had a good strong finish.”

Lesnar was also pleased with performances from Paige Schmidt, Sarah Schmidt, Hazel Kannegieter, and Claire Peterson.

“Paige and Sarah Schmidt ran excellent races. They’re getting back to their good form, which was fun to see. When we look at last year’s meet to this year’s meet, they’re about a minute faster than what they ran,” Lesnar said. “Hazel Kannegieter and Claire Petersen ran excellent races. Hazel – she’s my little hunt-down kid. She got a few kids at the end, so that’s always fun to see.”

On the boys’ side, Pierre’s Jared Lutmer won the title with a time of 15:45.67, well ahead of his teammate Caleb Morris, who finished with a time of 17:01.78. Lutmer said a great start helped propel him to victory.

“From the start, I kind of just led it, so I just tried to really push myself from the start and just see where I was at and do what I could do,” Lutmer said.

After the strong start, Lutmer kept building his lead, slowly pulling away from the competition.

“I kind of just kept an even pace and then as the race went on, I think, especially once you start to get closer to the crowd, you kind of just build that up and try to keep myself pushing forward.”

Pierre’s Jared Lutmer runs in the lead during the boys varsity race at the Sahli/Salmi Invitational Cross Country Meet Thursday at Lee Park Golf Course. Photo by John Davis taken 9/7/2023

Lutmer said the key during the season is to stay consistent throughout each race.

“I’ve been running since like sixth grade, (so) every day just keep getting better,” Lutmer said. “Obviously, you take breaks after seasons, but other than that just keep building consistency and keep building that base.”

Lutmer noted that the weather and the course were excellent for running.

“I think it was pretty ideal. It was a little windy on the backstretches, but it wasn’t too bad,” Lutmer said. “It’s a pretty flat course. It’s mowed pretty nice too just because it’s a golf course. I think it’s one of the nicer courses in the state, for sure.”

The Pierre senior set a personal record during the meet, which he says give him confidence moving forward.

“You can’t really be disappointed when you PR by yourself, so you take that and you just say what did I do good in this race, and you just use that and you try and use it in your next race if you can,” Lutmer said.

Watertown’s Ty Sullivan and Dane Stark placed third and fifth, with Jamestown, North Dakota’s Sam Anteau sandwiched in the middle at fourth place.

Members of the Aberdeen Central and Aberdeen Roncalli boys cross country teams take off at the start of the varsity race at the Sahli/Salmi Invitational Cross Country Meet Thursday at Lee Park Golf Course. Photo by John Davis taken 9/7/2023

Aberdeen Central placed five runners among the top 10 to fuel its run to the team title with 40 points.

Tate DeVries, Christian Wells, Max Nelson, Patrick Severson, and Tino Lopez finished in sixth through tenth place consecutively, while Carson Urlacher and Sam Schultz placed 12th and 13th, respectively.

Golden Eagle boys’ coach Greg Murley said it was good to see the team compete.

“We have some really good young talent,” Murley said. “Tino ran a little bit better. Esten Foss is coming off about a 13-week injury from last track season and we’re trying to get him back in. He finally ran a 5,000 and has a little bit of a cold, but sucks it up and competes hard today. Max Nelson and Patrick Severson had really good races and they’re pretty new to our varsity squad, so I just thought our overall effort was really good.”

Murley said the team needs to continue to learn and grow as the season moves along.

“Learning how to train is really a thing that we just have to continue to do,” Murley said. “To be honest with you, being more mindful of our long runs we’re doing and things like that, but we’re right on track. We’re in good shape, and I think we’re going to have a good rest of the year.”

Central’s will complete the Clyde Cotton Invite on Saturday, Sept. 16. Murley is excited for the competition his team will face.

“We see some Sioux Falls schools,” Murley said. “Brandon Valley will be back there and they’re probably the top team in the ESD. It’s just a different course.”

Roncalli’s top performance on the boys’ side came from Paul Gutenkauf, who finished in 25th place, followed by Matthew Peterson in 28th place. Lesnar was pleased with the efforts.

“I thought Paul ran a really good race. He ran a strong race, so good for him,” Lesnar said. “Matt Peterson, I thought ran a better race than he ran last week. He was getting a little bit more competitive there, so that’s good.”

Lesnar says the Cavaliers will need to continue to improve as they prepare for their home meet next week.

“We’ve got some good competition coming up here. We’ll host a meet here next Thursday, and then we got to Huron, which is a big meet, and Faulkton always has a good meet following that,” Lesnar said. “So, we’ve got some good races ahead of us, and just keep plugging away and keep working towards hitting that peak time of the season in October.”

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

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