Rangers score region titles

Esther Noe
The Hill City High School Rangers claimed two team titles and two individual titles at the SDHSAA Region 5A Cross Country Meet Oct. 11. 
Due to the impending weather, the meet was held a day early. As a result, the Ranger's recovery time was cut a little short. 
However, head coach Joe Noyes said, "Even though they may have been a little tired, man, they outperformed being tired. So to us as coaches, that's such a great indicator of where we're going to be at the state meet when we're fresh."
Going into the race, Noyes said the boys were fired up. Beforehand, the coaches told the boys they were expected to perform at their best ability at the region meet, and they did not disappoint. 
Luke Rupert claimed the region title in the boys varsity 5K with his time of 15:33.39. Leighton Aves was close behind in third, clocking in at 16:03.77. 
After that, Tate Grabow finished in fifth at 16:14.36, and Brandon Escalante claimed a personal record with his time of 16:26.69. 
Not to be cut out of the top 20, Aiden Williams finished 18th with his time of 18:41.92. Then seventh grader John Titus Isakson surprised Noyes by achieving a personal record of 19:03.52 and coming in 19th. 
Isakson has been running junior high all year, and Noyes said, "We've been watching him at practice and have known that he was going to be our sixth guy."
"He really performed well too. I didn't expect he would be in the top 20, and he got himself an individual medal," said Noyes. 
Together this put the Ranger boys in first place at Regions with Belle Fourche in second and Custer in third. 
For the girls varsity 5K, Abby Cutler claimed her fourth region title medal in her six years of running. She won with a time of 19:17.45. 
Brooke Thayer-Burke finished next in sixth with a time of 20:18.73. Aspen Veneklasen was right behind her in seventh coming in at 20:38.17. 
"Those two girls had a good race," said Noyes. "I'm still expecting them to pop off even a bigger race at the state meet."
Jaelyn Peters finished in 21st with a time of 22:31.55. After that, Hadley Walker placed 23rd at 22:40.29, and Phoebe Bentley-Buschur placed 25th at 23:05.15. 
This put the Ranger girls in first place at Regions with Custer in second and Belle Fourche in third.
There was some inter-team rivalry the last two weeks as the coaches chose who would go to state. Eight girls were close rivals for the six spots. 
After an off day at the conference meet, Paiton Flick got demoted to the junior varsity team for the region meet because another teammate beat her. 
Noyes said, "She had to step up and race her tail off not just against herself but also her own teammates to make the team."
Flick not only reclaimed her spot on the state team, but she also won the junior varsity race with a time of 21:41.18. 
The SDHSAA Class A State Cross Country Meet is at Yankton Trail Park in Sioux Falls Saturday, Oct. 21. The boys will race at 1 p.m. central time and the girls will race at 2:30 p.m. central time. 
"It's kind of on these kids' shoulders now," said Noyes. "This time of year is nice for coaches because our job is done. It's get them there safely, get them a good meal, get them a good night's sleep, give them a little strategy and pump up talk." 
"Everyone's got to show up and everyone's got to race. As an athlete, you got to rise up to that challenge and go take it," said Noyes. "I think they're ready for the task at hand. If I know the athletes, if I know the young men and women I've seen all year at practice, they're ready to handle their business at the state meet." 

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