Girls Varsity Cross Country
Game Summaries & Headlines.
- Game Date
- Aug 26, 2022
Friday night lights, hundreds anxiously waiting to cheer wildly for the teams that are ready to do battle adorned with face paint and shouting their school’s respective war whoops along with fireworks blasting to start things off may sound like a football game in cities and towns across the United States, but it was cross country night in the greater rural Byron Center area.
The Under the Lights Cross Country Invitational at South Christian High School’s sports complex kicked off the Trojan’s first meet of the season in dramatic fashion.Teams from around the state assembled to toe the line to take on the mostly flat course with a rolling hill here and there on a periodically lit course to add spice to an otherwise typical early season cross country meet.
For the Lady Trojans, the starting gun went off around 10:30 p.m. and the twelve teams in the Twilight Division emerged from the comfortable confines of the well lit starting area into the often rather dark abyss of the race course. Sophomore Ava Crews led the team by running an intelligent race from start to finish, biding her time and reeling in one athlete after another until crossing the finish line in 7th overall in a field of 127, and then earning one of the handful of medals for top finishers in the process. Her race clock stopped at a solid 20:11.
“It is evident how much Ava has developed as a runner both physically and mentally. She ran a smart race and learned from her previous race experiences,” Coach Sam Wilkinson noted, “There is no doubt that she worked hard tonight and it was a good first meet showing for her, but you will of course be seeing more of what she is capable of as our season unfolds.”
Junior Holly Velting set an early strong standard for herself finishing in the medals and placing 24th overall in a time of 21:42.
“Holly is demonstrating early this season that she recognizes that we have gaps to fill from last year and she is stepping up to do her part,” Coach Wilkinson observed,” She is a ‘hard nosed’ runner and grinds it out. She’s a tough nut.”
Next for the Trojans was senior Lucy VanDemark, who ran much of the race with a group of her teammates that included fellow senior Lindsey Velting, freshman Mady Kietzman, and senior Emma Thompson.
“Mady went out a little faster than I likely would have advised, but tonight was also a good night to figure things out for herself, particularly as a freshman in her first meet. I was impressed that she kept her wits about her and stayed with the group of veterans and didn’t back down,” Wilkinson said.
“Around roughly halfway into the race I saw this group flash through the light and I was glad they were working together. They started to separate a little after two miles, but they were still a stone’s throw from each other…not that we’re advocating throwing rocks."
VanDemark pulled away from the group somewhere in the shadows of the last half mile and brought it home in 22:51, besting most of her last year’s marks.
Coach Wilkinson said, “Lucy had a rough go of things last year with an injury, but she is already showing that she is on her redemption tour.”
Lindsey Velting crossed the line next for the Trojans in 22:54.
“This was a solid first meet finish for Lindsey. She is a sprinter by trade, but she can bring it to the 5k and she did a great job tonight. She is a strong veteran presence for us,” Wilkinson observed.
Following Velting was Mady Kietzman in 23:00.
“Mady is a natural runner and she has a strong work ethic. I couldn’t be happier with her effort tonight. With more experience, my hope is that she will believe in herself and see herself the way I see her and that’s as an athlete with a high ceiling in this sport. I think she’s starting to see this already, but she will be one to watch down the road,” expressed Wilkinson.
Senior Emma Thompson crossed the line as the next Trojan in 23:14, which is in the range of some of her best times last season.
Wilkinson added, “Emma is a steady runner and she is also one that is continuing to learn and explore her boundaries. She gets it that we need her to make a difference on our team and so far, and not surprisingly, she is stepping up.”
Rounding out the top seven was freshman Megan Schuurmans in 23:54, with junior Kate Powers hot on her heels in 23:55.
“Megan and Kate were with each other most of the race,” Wilkinson noted, “They are very close in ability and although they are battling for the top seven, they also worked well together as teammates. While Megan ran a really respectable first race, Kate was just two seconds off her fastest time last year in only her first attempt of the season!”
Also finishing for the Trojans was junior Laine Hinton (26:09), junior Mollie Moore (27:56), freshman Lucy Teunessen (28:03), and senior Liz Gaunt (28:49).
“Laine had a pretty severe injury this past winter and has been clawing her way back into form and has been really working hard. Although her time might not have been up to the standard she hoped for, I thought she did a great job of sticking with it and persevering.”
Wilkinson added, “Mollie is another who has been injured but is returning to action. She was not able to complete a single race last year, so for her to get after it the way she did was great to see! And then Lucy, who has never really been a runner, really took the bull by the horns and took on this race like she had been here before which was also great to see! Finally, Liz, who is running cross country for the first time, had a rough go of things, but she never backed down and ultimately toughed out a strong finish.”
“Our main goals heading into this event were to have fun in this unique racing environment, give maximum effort for what we had on the night, to get a reasonable sense for where we are with our fitness, and to have fun. Yes, I know I said ‘have fun’ twice, but that’s most of what this was going to be about. I’m proud of our girls in general because of who they are but I’m proud of the effort they gave and I was glad to see their smiles, hear their laughter, and to witness their joy. For some of them, this will be one of those meets where later in life they ask each other, ‘Remember the time when…’ and the stories will commence.”
Finally Wilkinson noted, “We have a long way to go this season, but I’m honored to be traveling this road with such a great group of young ladies.”