IPSWICH – Northwestern won both of the individual titles and also a team title as area runners competed in the Lake Region Conference Cross Country meet at the Ipswich Activities Complex on Wednesday afternoon.
Northwestern’s Ella Boekelheide and Lincoln Woodring topped their respective fields, while the Wildcats also won the boys’ team title.
On the girls’ side, Frederick Area won the team title with a score of 16, three points ahead of Ipswich (19). Northwestern (21), Warner (28), and Faulkton (46) rounded out the team scores.
Boekelheide captured the girls’ individual title in convincing fashion, winning with a time of 18:16.37, well ahead of runner-up Morgan Sumption of Frederick (19:54.87). Ipswich’s Madisyn Gellhaus (20:14.06), Northwestern’s Tara Blachford (20:29.14), and Warner’s Kennadee Wagner (20:29.36) rounded out the top five.
Boekelheide said the race will help her prepare for the rest of the season. “It was a good race. It’ll definitely help me prepare for State,” Boekelheide said. “It’s different than any cross country meet I’ve ever ran, so it was just exciting to run.”
The new course began on the rubber track and twisted throughout the complex, including around the football and baseball fields, before finishing on the track. Boekelheide enjoyed the diversity the course presented.
“There were a few sharp corners that I had to figure out how I was going to run,” Boekelheide said. “It was definitely fun starting on the track and then finishing on the track. I kind of like it. It kind of gets me in the track mindset. You’ve got to go faster at the end, and overall, I really liked it.”
Boekelheide bolted out to an early lead almost from the start, and focused on herself more than the competition.
“It’s me against me, basically. It’s my body against my mind and I knew that it was my race, and I couldn’t base it off anybody, so I just had to do what I needed to do,” Boekelheide said.
Once she had the lead, Boekelheide cruised to the win.
“I definitely try to get out fast,” Boekelheide said. “I know I probably won’t be able to keep that pace, but I’m just confident in it and make sure I don’t die.”
With just over two weeks left until the state meet, Boekelheide knows she will need to prepare her body for what lies ahead.
“Just keep working and make sure I get sleep, eat right, do all the things on the checklist to make sure I’m ready,” Boekelheide said.
Sumption knew the competition she was going up against entering the meet, which helped her prepare for the race.
“I knew, obviously, Ella was going to be a really strong competitor and I have beat the girls that got third and fourth pretty consistently over the season,” Sumption said. “My biggest thing was just keeping a positive mindset the entire time.”
Early on in the race, Sumption was in a fight for second place with several other girls, before pulling away for sole possession of that position. Sumption described her strategy during the race.
“As a senior I’ve been running at that level since the seventh grade, and I’ve really learned to not panic myself and trust the process and relax,” Sumption said.
Sumption said after she passed her opponents, she encouraged herself to press on towards the finish line.
“I just think about all the work that I’ve put in the last four years in the high school season, and knowing that I can do it and my mind can dictate my body and the strength that I have,” Sumption said.
While runners like Sumption and Boekelheide have been competing at the varsity level for years, Aberdeen Christian seventh-grader Clara Herreid was participating in her first varsity race on Wednesday. Herreid, who finished 17th, described the experience.
“It wasn’t too hard,” Herreid said. “It was better than I thought it was going to be.”
Herreid also enjoyed the course.
“It wasn’t too bad,” Herreid said. “It didn’t bother me too much.”
Herreid said she is looking forward to competing at the varsity level at the region meet next week and has goals in mind.
“Just running my best,” Herreid said. “That would be nice to make State. I’m going to try, but if I don’t make it, it’s OK.”
Chrisitan coach Adam Franken was glad to see the progress made by each of his runners during the meet.
“I thought they ran very well,” Franken said. “All the runners PR’d in their races by 30 seconds or better. All the runners ran varsity today for the first time, competed hard and worked hard.”
Franken said he has seen the team make improvements throughout the season.
“They really push themselves and really push each other to really do their best, whether it’s in practice or at a meet,” Franken said. “They’ve been improving all year, so excited to see what regions will hold next week.”
And how will Franken prepare his team for the region meet?
“Just the same thing that we do every day,” Franken said. “Just run, and run hard, and let everything else take care of itself. We’re hopeful that maybe we can get a couple in the top 20 (state qualifying cutoff). We’ll see how it goes.”
Other Christian runners included Lucy Jones, who finished in 25th place. Eighth-grader Joseph Richards was the lone Knights runner in the boys’ race, finishing in 20th place.
On the boys’ side, Northwestern won the team title with a score of 12, finishing 11 points ahead of Frederick (23). They were followed by Faulkton (30), Ipswich (36), and Leola (41).
Individually, Northwestern’s Lincoln Woodring won the title with a time of 17:09.96. Woodring was proud of the team effort the Wildcats displayed.
“I think that we had a great team today. I know they allowed unlimited runners for varsity, so it was a great opportunity for us to get better,” Woodring said.
Woodring was able to build a lead throughout the race, but said that it did not come easy.
“It was pretty tough, all cross country races are, but Milo (Sumption), I knew coming in he’d be up there with me,” Woodring said. “I know he’s a great runner, so I just had to stay in front of him and make sure not to look behind me too much.”
Woodring noted that the team will need to continue to work on several things before the region meet on Wednesday in Webster.
“Keep working, keep being consistent with our workouts and mileage, and make sure that we keep doing our cool downs after our run so we’re not too sore the next day,” Woodring said.
Frederick’s Milo Sumption trailed Woodring, finishing second (17:20.83). Sumption was glad to be competing against other area runners at the meet.
“I edged out Xavier Kadlec (of Ipswich). We’ve been duking it out all year. He ran really well today. I just made sure he couldn’t beat me. He’s a good sport and always fun to hang out with,” Sumption said. “Lincoln, obviously, is fun to be out here (with). We duke it out in track, cross country, even basketball. It’s always fun. All these guys, all these sports, you really know everybody.”
Sumption had to hold off Kadlec, as well as several other runners, for second place. Sumption described the process of securing the runner-up finish.
“I just know, it’s just always make sure you know where you’re at, and you’ve got to know what they’re like, too,” Sumption said.
Sumption said the course resembled a course he had run in Sioux Falls where this year’s state meet will be held.
“It really resembles the course down at Yankton Trails in Sioux Falls,” Sumption said. “Those artificial hills there, it’s almost identical from two years ago when I ran there. They really narrowed out the pathways.”
Sumption also concluded that the weather for the meet was better than in years past.
“It was nice out,” Sumption said. “Normally, when you come to Ipswich, it’s either a monsoon or it’s cold.”
Kadlec finished in third place, while Northwestern’s Nathan Melius and Langford Area’s Kalen Godel finished fourth and fifth, respectively.
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