The Custer High School cross country team cleaned up at last weekend’s state meet in Rapid City with both the boys and girls team coming in second place.
“Both the boys and girls teams went into the meet ranked second according to the final polls, and that’s what they walked away with. It didn’t look exactly like we expected, but that’s why they run the races,” said coach Karen Karim.
On the boys side, Joe Rush was still Custer’s top runner but had his work cut out for him by returning champ Derek Peters who won the race by more than 50 seconds.
“Joe raced the entire race with the pack up front, and this group also pushed the pace, coming through the first mile in 4:42, which is less than 10 seconds off Joe’s best time in the mile on the track,” said Karim. “The fast pace took more out of his legs than he could handle, and he ended up getting out-kicked and placing fifth with a time of 16:11. It was a tremendous effort on his part, and although he was somewhat disappointed with his place, he should hold his head up high; he had a great season.”
Nathaniel Youngblood ran a personal best with a time of 16:39, even in the blustering wind. He finished the race with a powerful kick to pass two runners from a significant distance behind and came in seventh place.
Max Oesterling also earned a medalist honor coming in at 19th place at a time of 17:21. Jace Oesterling was the fourth runner and scorer placing 32nd, and seniors Logan Block and Wyatt Dooley finished 38th and 50th to round out the top six.
The efforts of the Wildcat boys were good enough to knock out last year’s champions, Sioux Falls Christian to third place, allowing Custer to come in second behind West Central.
“This group of boys has been focused, hard-working and extremely dedicated, and I’m going to miss the leadership of my seniors: Joe Rush, Max Oesterling, Logan Bock, Ben Wahlstrom, Wyatt Dooley, Eli Mines and Mitchell Snyder. These boys are leaving some pretty big shoes to fill, and I am grateful for all they have given to the team. They were shooting for the top spot at state all year, and I’m proud of all they accomplished along the way,” said Karim.
The girls team came in second behind Hill City who they have had their eyes on all season. Kadense Dooley stepped up with a standout performance which earned her top honors for the team, placing 15th with a time of 20:12. Mallory Delmont, who was the leader all season, did not feel well in her race and finished 17th with a time of 20:20 and Tayler Carlson came in as the final medalist, placing 20th.
Tori Glazier finished as the fourth runner and scorer placing 29th followed by Ramsey Karim and Nancy Falkenburg Brown at 38th and 40th, separated by only three seconds.
“Although the girls were disappointed with their performance, they outpaced every other team besides Hill City and proved themselves as one of the top teams in the state again. The entire team finished in the top third of the race,” said Karim.
The girls cross country seniors are not as numerous as the boys, but their leadership will be a significant hole to fill as Carlson and Glazier have been varsity runners since seventh grade, and Mackenzie Laverick’s work ethic is second to none, Karim said.
Even though the team titles went to other schools, the program again was rewarded with the combined team championship for the third straight year.
“The kids were excited about that. It is a direct reflection of the countless miles run by all the kids, over the summer and on weekends throughout the season. They push each other to be better from the middle school kids and junior varsity runners-up to the top varsity athletes. There can be no letting up because the kids know that there is always someone behind them looking to take their spot. It is a championship culture, and the challenge for the younger runners will be to carry that on into next year,” Karim said.