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Red Rock Conference cross country: Slater breezes to victory

Les Knutson

Daily Globe

SLAYTON — Competing in far less than ideal weather conditions Monday at the Slayton Country Club, Mountain Lake Area received stellar finishing efforts from its two lead runners and had enough overall balance to claim the 2013 Red Rock Conference varsity girls’ team championship, edging an up-and-coming Southwestern United squad by two points, 37-39.

Eight-time defending champion Adrian, paced by individual gold-medalist Nicole Slater, finished a close third with 44 points, while both Murray County Central and Southwest Christian/Edgerton were incomplete.

Slater, who finished second to teammate Jordin Kopplow last year, left no doubt as to who this year’s first-place finisher would be. Taking the lead prior to the 4,000-meter course’s first steep hill, Slater continually stretched the distance between herself and the rest of the 27-runner pack.

Slater won the race by 58 seconds, clocking a time of 15 minutes, 21 seconds — very good for the rain-soaked conditions.

“I felt good all the way,” said a smiling Slater during the heavier rains that fell following the boys’ race and prior to the awards’ ceremony. “It’s so hard to believe that I am already a senior and this was my last conference race.”

Meanwhile, the race for second was closely-contested as MLA junior Lydia Hildebrandt tracked down, caught and passed SWU eighth-grader Rachel Salentiny.

Hildebrandt’s blazing finishing kick earned her the second-place silver medal with a time of 16:19, while Salentiny — who has had remarkable success this season — claimed third with her time of 16:21.

Later, Hildebrandt’s teammate — senior veteran Whitney Klassen — also won a kick at the end, outsprinting SW Christian freshman Elise Ver Hey, who ran by far her best race of the season.

Klassen claimed fourth (16:55) and Ver Hey, who was not part of the team scoring, placed fifth (16:59).

Those two performances by Hildebrandt and Klassen were key factors in MLA’s team victory, as the Wolverines top five finished in team places 2-4-7-9-15.

Running with five eighth-graders and one seventh-grader, SWU scored with places 3-5-8-11-12, while Adrian’s top five were 1-6-10-13-14.

SWU eighth-grader MaKayla Edwards (17:17), Adrian junior Morgan Sauer (17:45), Blomgren (17:49) and MCC’s Melissa Gehl (18:02) and Maddie Dibble (18:11) finished in individual places six through 10, respectively, each earning all-conference honors.


Paced by the one-two-three individual finish of senior Andy Garza, along with sophomores Clayton Hartle and Jack Erickson, Murray County Central successfully defended its Red Rock Conference varsity boys’ cross country title Monday.

Running in rain and cold at the Slayton Country Club, Garza improved on his third-place 2012 conference finish by winning this year’s 5,000-meter race in a time of 18 minutes, 20 seconds.

“That’s what I was hoping for,” exclaimed Garza after the race. “My teammates really help me out, we push each other all the time.”

Hartle (18:32) and Erickson (18:42) completed the MCC sweep, leading the Rebels to the team title with a low score of 25 points (1-2-3-11-12).

“We had a good day,” chimed in MCC head coach Dominick Damm. “Our top three are very competitive with each other and we had a good pack finish from our fourth, fifth and sixth guys, too.”

Mountain Lake Area, which had four finishers in a row in overall places 6-9, took second in the team standings with 41 points, while Adrian was third with 60. Both Southwestern United and Southwest Christian/Edgerton were incomplete.

Individually, Adrian junior Taylor Recker (19:07) and SWU freshman Logan Knutson (19:14) earned all-conference honors by finishing fourth and fifth, respectively.

MLA’s Tommy Kraemer (19:56), Ryan McCue (20:09), Reynaldo Capetillo (20:32) and Aaron Fast (20:38), along with SWC/E’s Evan Blom (20:39) completed the top-10, also achieving all-conference distinction.

Nathan Beech (20:43), Isaiah Olsem (20:49) and William Gehl (20:59) completed MCC’s team victory.