The O’Neill Invitational had over 260 participants in the high school and junior high races on Friday, according to Neligh-Oakdale Coach Rick Eickholt.
"Every race was loaded with talent," he said. "Both the girls and boys varsity races were talented enough and deep enough that there were several individual state qualifiers that did not medal."
Eickholt said Kasi Grosserode continued to impress Northeast Nebraska runners and coaches with a 3rd place finish. Finishing in front of Grosserode were Crofton’s #1 runner and last year’s meet champion from Laurel-Concord.
He said Jayda Chance also cranked out one of her top races.
"Jayda is a real gamer," Eickholt said. "She always seems to step it up in the really big, tough meets. Jayda finished in 11th place and beat runners that she has never beaten."
He said Brittany McConnell ran "a very gutty race," thinks 4 races in less than 2 weeks and the heat "took a toll on Brittney," who finished in 39th place.
For the boys, Michael Peinke led the way with a 19th place finish. Eickholt said Dallus Christensen is "nursing a sore knee" and did not compete.
"Knowing this, I was very happy with the efforts of the boys who finished in 8th place out of the 13 team field," he said. "Connor Knievel, Jordan Chelle and Jakub Raspl did a great job of trying to pick up the slack being a runner short."
Nearly 60 runners lined up for the girls junior high race and four Neligh-Oakdale girls topped the top 25. Haley Kerkman and Madi Grosserode led the way with top 10 finishes, placing in 3rd and 7th respectively.
"Both girls have continued to improve and have shown a great level of competitive spirit with their efforts," Eickholt said. "Also very impressive were the efforts of 7th graders Adysen Boggs and Emma Bixler who finished in 24th and 25th place. I was very pleased how both runners went out and ran in what was by far the largest race either had seen."
Jordan Knievel and Natasha Peinke were the next two to cross the finish line in 33rd and 34th position.
"Out of all of the junior high runners, I think I am proudest of the efforts of Haley Bixler and Nadia Peinke who finished in 42nd and 50th, both demonstrating huge improvements," he said.
Eickholt said the junior high girls were edged out of the team championship by 3 points.
For the junior high boys, 7th grader Eric Claussen finished in 36th place out of 55 runners.
"The Neligh-Oakdale cross country team just completed what is probably one of the most tenacious 2 weeks in my tenure as the cross country coach, with 4 meets in 12 days," he said. "Knowing ahead of time that this was coming this season, I was very concerned about this time frame, and with the temperatures in the mid-to-low 90's and a stiff breeze, didn’t help to ease my concerns, but we appeared to have come through it okay."