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Personal records and school records fell as Neligh-Oakdale and Elkhorn Valley cross country teams ran in the highly competitive Boone Central Invitational in Albion on Friday afternoon.
The unique format of this particular invitational places runners by their grade.
Neligh-Oakdale's Emma Bixler was the champion in the junior girls division and 4th place overall with a time of 20:05. Bixler's time shattered Neligh-Oakdale's previous course record of 21:08 which was set in 2015. She ran 1:19 faster than she ran on the same course just a year ago. Friday's race was so competitive that the first and second place runners from Boone Central both broke the all-time course record for the meet.
Teammates Hailey Bixler and Sydney Olson also turned in some of their best performances of the season. Hailey crossed the finish line in 24:15 for 13th in the junior girls division and 46th overall. Sydney ran a 28:30 for 22nd in the sophomore girls division and 72nd overall. The girls race featured 80 girls from 17 schools.
"Emma ran a real strategic race. She was fourth overall," N-O Coach Rick Eickholt said. "And our other two young ladies ran really well today. Hailey and Sydney may have both run the best races that they have run. I was very impressed with what they did today."
In the boys race, Warrior Cole Belitz ran a 16:54 to pick up 3rd place in the senior boys division and 4th overall. This crushes the previous school record for this course, which was 17:25, set back in 2003. Belitz ran 52 seconds faster this year than he did in Albion one year ago.
Elkhorn Valley's Hunter Bennett placed 4th among the sophomore boys and 8th overall with his time of 17:10. This is 27 seconds faster than he ran on the same course last year.
There were 133 runners from 19 schools in the boys race.
Rounding out Neligh-Oakdale's boys were Griffin Claussen, Christian Carothers, Ashton Higgins, Thomas Johnson, Isaias Juarez and Parker Tinsley. Claussen earned 12th in the sophomore division and 31st overall, with a time of 18:36. This is 1:22 faster than he ran the same course the previous year. Carothers was the 17th senior to cross the finish and 58th overall with his time of 19:28. This is 30 seconds faster than he ran last year. Higgins ran a 19:33 for 10th among the freshmen and 62nd overall. Johnson was the 15th freshman to cross the finish line in 20:01 and was 72nd overall. Juarez placed 25th among the sophomores and 92nd overall with his time of 21:20. Tinsley finished in 27:13 for 34th in the sophomore division and 131st overall. The Warriors were 9th in the team standings.
"Cole ran a very strategic race," Eickholt said. "He scares the daylights out of me when we come through the first three-quarters of a mile and he's got as many bodies in front. But he knows what he's capable of doing. He knows when he can turn it on and cut it loose. He ran a real nice race. Also on the boys side, Griffin ran a heck of a race. It might be the best race he's ever run also. He was in the mid 18's on the full 5K course. We had a lot of positives today, up and down the line. Our freshmen boys ran well today, so I'm just very, very pleased. We need to continue to improve. We know that we have a huge task in front of us with our district competition, but we just have to continue to work hard, stay healthy and be ready for the challenge."
The Falcons earned 13th place as a team. In addition to Bennett, EV runners were Damian Smith, Reed Bennett, Walter Furstenau, Brandon Evans, Colton Rystrom, Conner Klein and Dylan Wright. Smith finished 16th out of the sophomores and 47th overall in a time of 19:11, followed by Reed Bennett, the 9th freshman and 61st runner overall in a time of 19:32. Furstenau was the 14th freshman and 70th overall in a time of 19:54, Evans was the 18th junior and 71st overall with a 20:00, Rystrom was the 20th freshman and 80th overall in a 20:44, Klein was the 28th freshman and 101st overall in a 21:58 and Wright was the 36th freshman and 127th overall in a 24:37.
"They did a really good job," EV Coach Janet Rood said. "I think we had some really good PRs. I know Hunter beat his time here last year by 27 seconds. There were a lot of schools here today and the competition was tough. We have a lot of growing to do. We have a lot of rookies that this is their first time they've run all these courses so I think it totally makes a difference once you know what the course is like, how to run. I'm just really proud of their efforts."
Both teams will compete again on Thursday in the West Holt Invitational at Atkinson.