SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — The Stillwater boys’ cross country team followed up its third-place finish at the state meet with a third-place finish among an even stronger field on Sunday at the Nike Cross Heartland Regional at Yankton Trails Park.
The Ponies, competing as the Stillwater Running Club, scored 204 points to finish behind Edina (106) and Wayzata (135), who each qualified for and receive all-expense paid trips to Nike Cross Nationals in Portland, Ore., on Dec. 7. Stillwater held off Manhattan (205) by one point and Patriot XC Club wasn’t far behind in fifth place with 210 points in a 28-team field that included 13 state championship teams from seven states, including Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
“We went in rated third and your rating this time of year is based on a body of work so we certainly had no business being rated above Edina or Wayzata and there’s six other states there,” Stillwater coach Scott Christensen said. “I was actually hoping we’d win or be second, but I am pleased that we beat all the other state champions that were in the race.”
In addition to the team qualifiers, the top five individuals not on a qualifying team in each of the nine regions also advance to nationals.
Four at-large teams from among the nine regionals will also be selected to compete at nationals, though prospects for Stillwater earning one of those appears slim with two Minnesota teams already in the boys’ field and Wayzata and East Ridge also qualifying in the girls’ division.
Addison Dehaven of Brookings, S.D., crossed the line in 15:08.9 to hold off Richfield’s Obsa Ali (15:11.6) for the individual title on Sunday as less than 10 seconds separated the top five individual finishers.
Bailey Hesse-Withbroe finished 19th overall (10th for the purposes of team scoring) in a time of 15:55.6 to lead the Ponies while Eli Krahn followed in 31st place with a time of 16:05.6. Sam Hanson (16:30.2) and Allen-Michael Burback (16:33.4) finished 71st and 79th while Tayler Aarness closed out the scoring in 104th overall with a time of 16:46.3.
“Hanson ran great and Bailey was superb. They had absolutely drop-dead great races,” Christensen said.
Alex Percival (17:07.9) and Nick Yokanovich (17:08.2) also competed for the Ponies, placing 144th and 145th out of 257 runners.
“Our race was very similar to the state meet, in the lead at a mile, nine points back out of first at two miles so you can see what happened over the last mile,” Christensen said. “We just faded away and that’s what happens when you have a bit too much inexperience and maybe a bit too much injury where you’re in it for a while. That’s why the fourth quarter of a basketball game, a football game or the last couple of laps in a distance race on the track, that’s what you want to watch because that’s where the race is won or lost. Naturally I’m disappointed.”
With Tayler Aarness the only senior in Stillwater’s lineup, Christensen is hoping his team can challenge for state and regional honors next fall. The Ponies competed at Nike Nationals two years ago before slipping to fourth a year ago.
“I hate predicting, but I think with those same three (Minnesota) teams it will be a rerun next year,” Christensen said. “Whether the order will be the same remains to be seen.”
n Jonathan Breckheimer finished second in the 5,000-meter freshman-sophomore race with a time of 17:08.9 on Sunday as Stillwater finished sixth in the team standings with 171 points. Breckheimer finished just one second behind Jebben Keyes (17:07.9) of Pierre, who recently placed 24th at the South Dakota Class AA state meet. David Holmes was next for Stillwater in 16th place with a time of 17:42.1. John Huntley (17:06.2) and Tim Koenning (17:08.1) placed 14th and 16th to lead Stillwater to a fifth-place finish in the Black (JV) race.
“That was very exciting and the kids ran well,” Christensen said. “The way I look at it, we had 16 kids in there and 10 ran their best of the season, including Breckheimer — and they haven’t raced since the section meet.”
Team standings (top 10)
1. Edina XC Running Club 106; 2. Wayzata XC 135; 3. Stillwater Running Club 204; 4. Manhattan CC Club 205; 5. Patriot XC Club 210; 6. Johnston Dragoons 228; 7. Demon XC 233; 8. Perham 251; 9. SPASH 253; 10. Linn-Mar Running Club 254.
1. Addison Dehaven 15:08.9; 2. Obsa Ali 15:11.6; 3. Stuart McNutt 15:13.8; 4. Chandler Austin 15:14.7; 5. Albert Meier 15:18.6.
19. (10) Bailey Hesse-Withbroe 15:55.6; 31. (18) Eli Krahn 16:05.6; 71. (47) Sam Hanson 16:30.2; 79. (55) Allen-Michael Burback 16:33.4; 104. (74) Tayler Aarness 16:46.3; 144. (97) Alex Percival 17:07.9; 145. (98) Nick Yokanovich 17:08.2.