HURON — Lincoln High School commemorated its 50th anniversary this past year, and on Saturday at the SDHSAA state cross country championships at Broadland Creek Golf Course in Huron, the Patriots did something never seen in the school’s rich athletic history.
The Patriots won both the girls and boys titles in Class AA, grabbing a repeat victory in the girls race and returning to first place in the boys standings after finishing second to Roosevelt in 2015. Lincoln also had both individual race winners in junior Courtney Klatt and senior Gabe Peters.
“The culmination is just amazing,” Patriots head coach Eric Pooley said. “It’s hard to describe … to actually have these kids come through in the clutch and pull through and have some great races just says so much about these kids.”
Klatt had previously performed well in the state meet, finishing seventh last year at Yankton Trails Park. She was running with Brandon Valley back then, though, and transferred to Lincoln this fall.
Some of Klatt’s best competition in the race came from her own teammates, in freshman Caroline Sudbeck and junior Jasmyne Cooper, and her race strategy was partly based on those runners’ strengths. Both Sudbeck and Cooper are skilled middle-distance runners whose foot speed could serve them well in a sprint finish, so Klatt made an early move to give herself space and make sure the race didn’t come down to that.
“I was a little bit nervous, because I didn’t know how far behind me everyone else was,” Klatt said. “But I just kept pushing on.”
Klatt finished with a time of 18:38.58, and Sudbeck came in roughly 20 seconds behind. Cooper finished in seventh to round out the Patriots’ top-10 finishers.
Peters was the favorite in the boys race, having won the individual title in 2015 with the top overall time in that meet, and he held a consistent lead to win in 16:05.73. That Patriots’ title win, however, came on the strength of a tight pack of finishers behind Peters.
The Patriots’ second finisher was sophomore Jack Elliot, in fifth, and they had four more down to junior Ike Mendel, who finished 12th. Roosevelt had seniors Seth Iverson and Thane Hein finish second and third, but the Rough Riders’ next finisher didn’t come until 16th place.
“That’s hard to compete with,” Pooley said. “Because when you’ve got a herd of Lincoln running, and you’re an opposing team and you’ve got three, four, five of those guys passing you … That’s very tough to do.”
Chargers reach the top
Sioux Falls Christian’s boys team had come up short before, but the Chargers knew they just had to wait a bit longer.
Last year’s second-place finish to West Central in the Class A championships came by a narrow 16-point margin, and Sioux Falls Christian didn’t have a single senior in its top four finishers. The Chargers were older and faster this year, though, and placed four runners in the top 20 to win their first state title since 1981, when they were in Class B.
“We were hopeful that things would turn out this way,” Chargers head coach Luke Van Der Leest said. “We got third place (two) years ago, runner-up last year, and it’s the same group of guys each year.”
Sioux Falls Christian didn’t count on having a runner up in the lead for any significant period during the race, as they knew of the prowess of West Central’s Derick Peters from racing against him during the year. Peters finished in 15:37.67, almost a minute faster than the second-place finisher, St. Thomas More’s Ty Trainor.
The Chargers’ instead counted on their reliable duo of junior Lance Van Zee and senior Caleb DeWeerd to stick in the top 10. DeWeerd had been slightly ahead of Van Zee for most of 2016, but they flipped on Saturday, with Van Zee finishing fifth in 16:43.04 and DeWeerd placing seventh in 16:58.10.
“We just spurred each other on and tried to carry each other, too,” Van Zee said.
Peters blows field away
Derick Peters hit the mat at the finish line, stopped the timer on his wristwatch and waited. He waited longer than any finisher had during the day: 55.09 seconds, the time that elapsed before St. Thomas More’s Ty Trainor crossed in second place.
The West Central junior was among the fastest overall runners at the state meet in 2015, running a time 17 seconds slower than Lincoln’s Gabe Peters. (The two aren’t related.) As was expected given his massive improvement previously shown in 2016, Peters had by far the best time of the day on Saturday, almost 30 seconds clear of the next-fastest runner.
Peters said he might have started too fast, and that the second half of the race felt significantly tougher than the first. He ran the race effectively uncontested, though, as has been the case most of the year, and wasn’t bemoaning his result.
“I felt really good the first half of the race, and slowly I just felt it going away,” Peters said. “I just tried to keep pushing through it as much as I could, tried to finish strong, and I got my result.”
Peters’ season isn’t over yet: He’s set to run in two regional meets in November, first at the Nike Heartland Regional at Yankton Trails Park and then the Foot Locker Midwest Regional in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Follow Ian Frazer on Twitter at @IanMcFrazer .