Blair Bears, Arlington Eagles and Fort Calhoun Pioneers stirred up dust Thursday during the Blair Cross-Country Invitational.
The dry course covered 5-kilometers with two big loops around BHS' practice football field and Otte Blair Middle School, and one smaller one to the finish line.
“They change this course every year,” Arlington senior Barrett Nielsen said, sweat dripping from his forehead. “You never know what to expect.”
As expected, though, all three Washington County schools earned top finishes. The Fort Calhoun boys edged out the second-place Bears by one position, while the Eagles came in fourth.
The Blair girls were second to Elkhorn North as Arlington took fourth — ahead of fifth-place Douglas County West, a top Nebraska Capitol Conference challenger — and FCHS was ninth.
Mesuidi Ejerso of South Sioux City and AHS' Keelianne Green were the individual race winners.
Fricke, Schrick lead Bears
The Bears' Dawson Fricke and Chloe Schrick each finished second in their respective races.
Fricke clocked in at 17:55.51, while Schrick earned a 21:03.66. They and their teammates did so under a bright, warm sun.
Freshman Calin O'Grady, who medaled 11th in the boys' race, said it was mind over matter.
“Coach (Darren) Harsin, he told us yesterday, that there's things you can't control like the weather,” he recalled. “But things you can control about your mindset and how you run the race.”
When asked what the ninth-grader focused on during the race, O'Grady was quick to answer.
“Keep beating the people in front of me and don't give up my position,” he said.
Blair's Nolan Slominski added a 14th-place finish, while Zac Keeling was 16th, Nick Wayman was 20th and Ted Lueders was 28th in his first varsity race of the fall.
“I just try to keep up with them because they're my team,” O'Grady said. “They push me and I push them. That's how it works.”
There may be one exception, though.
“And Dawson is always pushing people,” the freshman continued. “There's no pushing him, he pushes everyone else.”
Schrick pushed for her position seven spots ahead of teammate Allie Czapla, who claimed ninth. Hailey Amandus was 12th and senior Kaitlynn Amandus celebrated her 18th birthday with a medal in 15th.
“I think it was just trying to uphold the same pace on the hill,” Kaitlynn said when asked what the day's big challenge was.
Sophia Baedke took 17th in 23:03.57 and Emily Lamoureux was 20th, too, respectively.
Olberdings lead Pioneers to win
Brothers Ely and Lance Olberding finished seventh and eighth in the boys' race, leading coach Kyle McMahon's Fort Calhoun team to its team title.
Ely finished in 18:25.7, while Lance clocked in at 18:28.33 during what the latter believed was the Pioneers' hottest race of the fall. The heat wasn't too hard to deal with, but another factor was.
“That wind, that's a pretty big killer,” Lance Olberding said. “You're standing here and you're, like, 'That's kind of windy.' But when you're out there running it, it's pretty tough.”
Every runner FCHS could beat out to the finish line Thursday and the Pioneers delivered. Jacob Rupp was 12th in 19:00.45, while Travis Skelton earned a medal in 15th with a time of 19:28.21. Johnathon Schwarte was 24th and Gage Nixon was 27th, too.
On the competitive girls' side, Dala Drowne led Calhoun in 19th ahead of Tess Skelton in 41st. Kaitlyn Thalman was 43rd and Xinzhi Huang was 55th.
Arlington claims 4th
Arlington was fourth in each team race of the Blair Invitational, including on the girls' side as it beat out fifth-place Douglas County West. The Falcons have edged the Eagles in recent races, but not Thursday.
Green led the way, claiming first in 20:30.26 — the junior's third race win in three tries. Behind her, Hailey O'Daniel was eighth in 22:08.53, while Whitney Wollberg claimed 31st in 24:22.96. Brynn Eckhart was 37th, Kelise Cook-Krivohlavek was 42nd and Brooke Hilgenkamp took 48th.
On the boys' side, Arlington's Nolan May led his team in ninth with a time of 18:31.29. Connor Flesner was 17th in 19:35.33 and Dallin Franzluebbers finished 18th in 19:38.92.
Nielsen said temperatures were a factor in the run.
“That heat, that really got me at least,” he said. “I'm running and I'm thinking, 'Oh man, that sun.' That's killer.”
The Eagle finished 43rd behind Kolby Tighe in 30th and Luke Hammang in 32nd, respectively.