’Cats second, third at Douglas Early Bird

Ron Burtz

No official team scores were tabulated for the season opening Douglas Early Bird Cross Country Meet at Box Elder last week but according Athletic.net’s “hypothetical” scoring, the Custer varsity girls came in second and the boys were third on Friday.
In the 5K varsity race, the Wildcat girls finished behind AA favorite Rapid City Stevens but beat out the rival Hill City Rangers by 11 points.
That placing was also in spite of the fact that head coach Karen Karim entered only five runners in the race. However, she said “they’re a pretty solid five.”
Ramsey Karim (20:02.13) and Kadense Dooley (20:06.77) finished fifth and sixth, mere seconds behind Hill City’s Abby Cutler, last year’s state champion.
Senior Eva Studt was next to cross the finish line for the Wildcats. She came in ninth with a time of 21:06.74.  
“She was in the top 10,” said Karim, “and she beat some people in our conference that beat her most of the season last year. ”
Sophomore Brit Wheeler made the top 20, coming in 18th with a time of 21:47.25. Karim said that is excellent considering the quality of the competition such as Stevens and Shanley High School of Fargo, N.D.  
Karim said sophomore Sierra Swanson didn’t feel well the second half of the race and finished 35th in 23:25.62. The coach said she hopes to see improvement in Swanson this week in Sioux Falls where there is not “a giant hill smack dab in the middle of the first half of the race,” as was the case in Box Elder.
Sadie Moore was the top runner for the Wildcats in the JV race which was also a 5K. Moore came in 22nd with a time of 26:07.19.
Karim observed there were a number of promising runners in that race but while she thought several of them probably should have been running a 4K instead of a 5K, “they suffered through.”
For their third place “hypothetical” finish behind Stevens and Sturgis, the varsity boys had a score of 75.
They were led by junior Gage Grohs, who Karim says seemed to pick up where he ended the season last year. Grohs came in fifth with a time of 17:31.92.
“He’s just a gutsy runner and he went out and raced with those Stevens boys,” said Karim. “I expect improvement out of him as the season goes on if we don’t injure him but that was a nice place to start for him.”
Senior Preston Drew kept pace with St. Thomas More’s Wilson Miller and finished just four seconds behind him in 15th place with a time of 18:06.43.
“He was right with him,” said Karim, “and that was a good race for Preston and he looked strong.”
Like Swanson in the girls race, several of the varsity boys lost energy in the second half of the race, one of those being senior Miles Ellman, who finished 17th with a time of 18:13.86.
“The first half he was right in the mix right up there with Gage and he just did not feel good the second half of the race so he kind of faded,” said Karim. “It’s not exactly where I thought he would be but nobody feels good every time.”
“Drew Lehman being 22nd (18:25.04) that was a huge race for him,” said Karim. “That’s very close to the best he’s ever run. For a 10th grader, you can see the effort and the work he’s put in over the summer.”
Senior Pierce Sword (32nd, 19:16.56) also faded in the second half of the race but Karim said she expects to see improvement in him as the season progresses.
“These kids had a pretty tough week of practice last week and some of them had worked very hard in practice and their legs were a little bit dead,” said Karim. “Pierce was one that I think will snap back with a little bit lighter load this week.”
Landon Woodward was 38th (19:36.02).
“Landon had a solid race,” said Karim. “He’s in the top six (on the team) right now.”  
Karim said Alex Van Horn (46th, (21:13.90) and Jackson Drew (48th, 21:27.23) both lost energy in the second half of the race as well.
Sterling Sword was the top Wildcat runner in the JV race and Karim said she expects him to run a varsity race in next couple of weeks.
“His time would have put him in with that group,” she noted.
This Friday the runners travel to Sioux Falls for the 10th annual Augustana Twilight meet which returns after taking a year off due to COVID. The combo meet with both college and high school athletes is held at Yankton Trails Park which will be the site of the state meet at the end of October.
Karim said while it won’t be the exact same course as the state cross country meet, being in the same general location provides the runners the opportunity for a preview of the state meet in terms of travel and the logistics of the competition.
Karim said another benefit is that the park is a mostly flat complex of soccer fields which is “a lot easier course than anything we will touch for the rest of the year.” She said the lack of hills on the course makes a huge difference and she says she expects some faster times from all her runners.  

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