It was a busy week for the Custer cross country teams after hosting the annual Eldon Knudson- Custer Invitational on Thursday, Sept. 15, and then traveling to Huron for the Huron Invitational Saturday, Sept. 17.
With the two meets nearly back to back, coach Karen Karim said the team made the decision to not run the Custer meet full force.
“Knowing the Huron meet was coming up on Saturday, we wanted the kids to do well there and not be injured after two meets in a row,” she said. “The boys ran with a plan in place, with goal paces to hit for each mile. Strategy wise, I think that made them think and slowed some of them down considerably from what they could have done.”
On the boys side, Joe Rush was the first Custer runner to place for the team, taking fifth place with a time of 18:36.
“I think Joe may have been able to win it all had he gone out faster instead of following the plan,” Karim said. “His sixth place looked easy.”
Max Oesterling and Nathaniel Youngblood were the next two finishers, taking seventh and eighth place, respectively. Oesterling was in at 18:36, while Youngblood finished with a time of 18:41, which has been his fastest time this season.
“Nathaniel has run only two other races, so pacing was really good for him. It allowed him to stay with the other guys,” Karim said.
Eli Mines was the fourth runner to score for the boys team, taking 14th place in a time of 19:17. Mines was just a few seconds ahead of teammate Ben Wahlstrom, the final scorer for Custer, who took 16th place in 19:19.
With the five scorers placing, Custer was able to secure the second place team title with 38 points, just three points behind Sheridan, Wyo.
Karim is confident that had the team not been racing later in the week, the Custer boys team would have walked away with the first place trophy.
“That was a bit harder to swallow, knowing we were so close,” Karim said. “We might have been able to challenge the boys for team title had we really gone after it.”
Jace Oesterling was the sixth runner to place for the Wildcats, just behind Wahlstrom in 17th place at 19:23.
“I was very pleased with this race. We had six guys up there in less than a minute period of time, all getting medals,” Karim said.
Wyatt Dooley was the final runner for Custer to finish, taking 40th place with a time of 20:36.
“Overall, it was a good meet for the boys,” Karim said. “Since they were running at paces, it was a good workout for them. I thought they looked strong and I was happy no one came out injured from it.”
On the girls side, Mallory Delmont sat out the Custer Invitational since Karim felt there was no one she could run with.
“She didn’t have the same advantage of running together as the boys did and I didn’t want her injured,” Karim said.
With Delmont sitting out, Hannah Thorstensen and Tayler Carlson led the way for the Wildcats, taking 19th and 20th, respectively. Thorstensen finished in 23:38 while Carlson was just behind her by four seconds.
“They ran together for much of the race, which I think helped with medaling,” Karim said.
Julianne Thomsen also ran with the two girls mid-way before they pulled away. Thomsen finished in 35th place in a time of 25:49.
Mackenzie Laverick and Katy Bradeen stepped up from junior varsity to race in the varsity meet, with Bradeen finishing in 45th place in a time of 27:20 and Laverick finishing in 47th place at 27:35.
Just like the boys race, Sheridan took first place in the girls race with 17 points. Newcastle, Wyo., and Red Cloud rounded out the top three while the Wildcats finished in fourth place with 86 points.
The decision to not run the Custer meet full force paid off for many Custer runners, including Delmont, who walked away from Huron with first place.
Delmont’s time of 18:55 was the fastest of the meet, eight full seconds ahead of Brookings runner Ellie Abraham. Delmont’s performance was also a personal record and the first time she has run under 19 minutes in a 5K race.
“She put it to the girl from Brookings who had been winning all the races on that side of the state,” Karim said. “She performed really well.”
Thorstensen, Carlsen, Thomsen and Emmalee Hollick also ran the fastest they had all season, with Thorstensen taking 56th place in 21:42. Carlsen was in 69th place with a time of 22:11, while Thomsen finished in 85th place with a time of 22:53. Hollick was the final runner for the Wildcats, taking 111th place with a time of 24:08.
“I’m seeing steady improvement in the girls race,” Karim said. “I was really pleased.”
The five girls scored 263 points, taking 12th place overall. Rapid City Stevens won the meet with 86 points, while Brandon Valley was second with 97 and Aberdeen Central was third with 102 points.
The boys team also fared well at the Huron meet with its fourth place team title. With 17 teams and over 150 runners, the boys field was deep with talent.
“The boys still have Sioux Falls Christian in their sights,” Karim said.
Rush had another spectacular race, taking sixth place in a time of 16:37. Winning the race was St. Thomas More’s Luke Julian.
“Joe was surrounded by Sioux Falls Christian runners in the race, but that puts him in a good spot,” he said. “They and Luke will be his competition at state. But Joe is really looking like a standout.”
Wahlstrom, Max Oesterling and Youngblood all finished within a second of each other. Wahlstrom took 29th place with his 17:40.13 finish, while Max Oesterling was 30th with 17:40.43. Youngblood was in at 31st with a time of 17:41.
“They were just out of reach of medals, but they all set new personal records,” Karim said. “It’s rewarding for them to get their fastest time ever at this point of the season. We’re going to keep improving from here.”
Jace Oesterling was the next finisher, taking 50th place at 18:12. Eli Mines was next in 70th place with 18:36 as his time. Logan Block, who sat out the Custer meet with a hip issue, was in at 93rd place at 19:13, while Wyatt Dooley finished in 102nd place at 19:23.
Snyder and Smith both stepped up from the junior varsity race to compete at the varsity level, taking 110th and 138th place, respectively. Snyder finished with a time of 19:32 and Smith was 20:58.
“I was really happy for Mitchell, who had another PR after his first one two days before,” Karim said. “He is steadily improving. I am really pleased with where everyone is at.”
The Custer boys team took fourth place with 133 points. Winning was Rapid City Stevens with 69 points, followed by Sioux Falls Christian and Sioux Falls Washington. Karim said she looks forward to how the boys finish every week, as they almost never finish in the same order.
“Week in and week out, our boys always step up,” she said. “There is always a different person as the second runner. I hope that strength pays off at the end of the season.”
Karim was also pleased with the Huron Invitational, since the course will be used for the state “A” championship meet in October. With the course being not very hilly, it’s much faster than other previous state meet locations.
“We really wanted to get a good look at the course and hopefully perform well on it,” she said. “I think we did just that.”
The cross country team will compete at the Rapid City Invitational at Hart Ranch this Saturday, Sept. 23. The course, which may potentially be where the state meet is held next year, is not as hilly as other courses in the Black Hills. The team will be challenged by the variety of schools that compete at this meet, including schools from Wyoming, North Dakota and Nebraska.
“I’m looking forward to this one,” Karim said. “We’ll have a full week of training in us before heading to the meet. It should be a good one.”