XC boys capture region 5A title

Ron Burtz
The Custer varsity boys placed all six runners in the top 20 at the Region 5A cross country meet on Thursday to claim the regional title and punch their ticket to the state cross country meet this Saturday at Hart Ranch. The girls team had four runners in the top 20 and placed second behind Hill City to also qualify for the state meet. 
Junior Miles Ellman was the frontrunner again for the boys, placing third with a time of 17:34.04 behind returning state champion Sawyer Clarkson of Belle Fourche and Cody Farland of St. Thomas More (STM). 
Sophomore Gage Grohs was next to cross the line for Custer. He placed fourth, running the hilly Tomahawk Country Club course south of Deadwood in a time of 17:56.61. Junior Preston Drew placed seventh with a time of 18:59.84.  
“That was a nice race for those kids,” said coach Karen Karim, “after last week where a couple of kids didn’t feel very well. 
Karim said she was specifically talking about Grohs and Drew noting that Grohs had his best race of the season on Thursday. She said it wasn’t especially great according to the clock, but notes Grohs ran well in spite of a tough course and less than favorable weather. 
“And that’s as good as Preston has looked since very early in the season,” said Karim, “so I was pretty happy. Having him pop over the top of STM’s number two runner just makes it easier for us to beat them. STM is one of the high ranked teams in the state. I think they’re seeded second in the state so that was good for us to come out and beat them head to head.”
Junior Pierce Sword, back in action after sitting out most of the season with an injury, came in 12th, finishing the race in 18:59.84. In 15th place was senior Kaleb Wragge (19:12.93) and Drew Lehman finished 18th in 19:38.20. 
In the girls race, junior Kadense Dooley finished second, less than 30 seconds behind race winner Abby Cutler of Hill City. Dooley’s time of 20:12.75 was also nearly 30 seconds faster than former teammate Nancy Falkenburg Brown who now runs for Hill City and placed third.
“Kadense just looked that much stronger again,” said Karim.  
Sophomore Ramsey Karim finished eight seconds behind Falkenburg Brown to take fourth place. Karim finished in a time of 20:54.01. 
“Last week Ramsey beat Nancy,” said the coach, “Nancy was a little in front of Ramsey this week and I think they’re kind of prepping for a little showdown next week at the state meet so that’ll be nice.” 
Junior Eva Studt was the third runner for Custer, finishing 16th in 22:30:38. Seventh grader Hailey Woodward finished 19th (23:36.21), freshman Brit Wheeler took 21st with a time of 23:52.18 and teammate Maya Tennyson, an eighth grader, finished just two seconds behind her (23:54.82) for her 22nd place finish. 
Notably absent from the race was freshman speedster Sierra Swanson, who has been sidelined since the Sturgis meet by an injury.  
“We lost Sierra so that doesn’t make us super solid in the team race,” said Karim, “but Eva and Ramsey and Kadense with their experience—they’re all former medalists from last year—I expect great things out of them. I have faith in my girls and they’re in good shape and ready to go.” 
Karim says if the doctor gives her a thumbs up to race, Swanson might end up running at state but she admits “it’s a tough comeback when you haven’t run for three weeks...Time isn’t on our side.” 
The varsity boys team scored a 25 for its first place victory and the girls scored a 38 for second place. 
Meanwhile the JV teams running in their last races of the season had respectable showings. The JV boys finished third behind Belle Fourche and Rapid City Christian while the girls did not enter enough runners to qualify for team points. 
Sadie Moore was the frontrunner for the Wildcats, finishing fifth in 24:56.61. She was followed by sisters Emma and Peyton Helfer in eighth and ninth places respectively. 
For the JV boys it was sophomore Landon Woodward placing second with a time of 20:41.06. Rounding out the finishers for the Wildcats were Riley Scott, 12th; Kody Marshall, 14th; Regan Sorenson, 17th; Joel Tramp, 22nd and Gus Fortune, 29th. 
Karim said several of her younger runners started the season with no running experience. 
“I’m looking forward to having those kids for several more years,” she said. 
While they face tough competition at state, Karim says she believes all of her boys have “more in the tank” when it comes to their potential at the state meet. 
Karim said the course is more level at Hart Ranch than the ones they’ve been running on for the last few weeks but  the runners could still be fighting stiff winds. 
She says all the runners are getting better each week and that she’s looking to set them up in training for a good race next week. 
“I’m hoping for some good things to culminate the season,” said Karim. 

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