Following a two-day postponement due to heavy rain, the United South Central “No Frills” Cross Country Invitational was held last Thursday in frigid conditions. After working on in 75-degree weather on Wednesday, eight teams were greeted with actual temperatures in the mid-30’s, overcast skies, and breezes that took the wind-chill down to the mid-20’s as they arrived at Oakview Golf Course in Freeborn.

Despite the adverse conditions, the Lancers returned home with bookend team wins, with the girls managing to claim their first invitational first-place finish since they managed that feat in this same meet four years ago in 2014, and the boys winning their third meet this season.

It appeared that a functioning starter’s pistol may have been a “frill” as the girls’ field stood frozen at the starting line after stripping off their sweat clothing, only to endure three misfired attempts to start the race and a several minute delay before they were finally sent out on their 5,000-meter course. Although Austin Pacelli had individual race winner Kayla Christopherson, along with a fourth place finisher and Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton/Waterville-Elysian-Morristown’s runners took second and third, La Crescent-Hokah manageded six of the next eight finishers to cement their team victory.

Freshman Lydia Rosendahl continued her strong front-running in her first season as a full-time varsity performer for the Lancers, finishing fifth in 21:25, with junior Katy Steffes just six seconds behind in sixth place. Following a United South Central and another JWPWEM finisher, senior Molly Franzose (22:31), eighth grader Autumn Rabe (22:40), soph Ashley Muenzenberger (22:42) and seventh grader Gracie Van Lin (22:45) grabbed the next four spots.

The Lancers’ total of 41 points pulled out the win over JWPWEM by five points, with Pacelli in third at 79. The host USC/Alden-Conger team was fourth at 91, Tri-City United fifth with 115, and Blooming Prairie sixth at 134, with NRHEG and Medford both incomplete.

La Crescent-Hokah’s boys must have learned from the girls performance and followed the same basic formula to their team win. With Tri-City United runner Hugo Ruiz running away to a wire-to-wire individual victory in 17:20 and one of his teammates in second, the Lancers turned the tables on TCU by claiming five of the next six finishing spots.

After opening up a gap on his teammates and appearing poised to take a run at a second place finish, Lancer junior Thomas Lechnir began to not feel well in the closing 1800 meters, allowing teammate Camdan Nolop to become the first Lancer finisher in third place at 18:00. Lechnir held on to finish fourth in 18:03, then freshman Cody Kowalski at 18:06 and junior Bryce Duffy at 18:07 placed fifth and sixth. When lone senior Dane McCormick crossed the finish line in eighth place in 18:18, the team win was complete for the Lancers.

Following the winning total of 26 points, TCU claimed second at 34, with Medford a distant third with 97, followed by JWPWEM’s 119, Blooming Prairie’s 127, and Pacelli’s 150, with NRHEG and the host Rebels of USCAC incomplete.

In the 3,200 junior high races that concluded the afternoon, the Lancers did not let the fact that some of their teammates had stepped up to the longer varsity races for the afternoon mar their outstanding season. Eighth grader Jack Kreutzman outdistanced the field, winning in a time of 13:21, leading Lancers Austin Smith (13:35), Wyatt Farrell (13:50), Sam Culver (13:55), and Cooper Carlson (13:58) to a one-through-five sweep of the boys contest for a perfect score of 15 points for the Lancers. Olivia Seidel placed ninth in 17:59 as the only finisher for the Lancer girls.

Following the Three Rivers Conference Meet in Lewiston this past Tuesday, the Lancers will enter the post-season on Thursday, October 25, when they travel to Rochester’s Northern Hills Golf Course for the 23-team Section 1A Championships. The top two teams for each gender will qualify to advance to the State Meet, along with the top eight individual finishers that are not members of the qualifying teams. The Lancer boys are the defending Sectional champions, while the girls will be looking to rebound from a 15th-place finish one year ago.

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