The Lovell cross country team made a strong first impression as the team saw its first action of the new season Friday when the Bulldogs and Lady Bulldogs competed at the Billings Invitational.
Veterans and newcomers alike ran well in Billings, either making impressive debuts or improving on times from a year ago.
Senior AJ Dickson placed 26th out of 169 runners in the varsity boys race with a solid time of 16:47.27, about 22 seconds faster on the three-mile course than he ran last year (17:09.6). Right behind him at the finish was junior Jacob Newman, who placed 27th with a time of 16:47.59, 24 seconds better than his time from a year ago (17:11.7).
“Those are great opening times,” Coach Caleb Sanders said. “Our goal for them was to go under 18 seconds, and they did. They didn’t run together during the race. AJ came up from behind in the last mile. Jacob led AJ until the last half second.”
Also running in the varsity race were senior Andrew Mayes, who finished 115th with a time of 18:53.47, two minutes faster than a year ago, and senior Alex Sawaya, who placed 131st at 19:25.63, about 41 seconds faster than a year ago.
“That’s a good time for Andrew,” Sanders said. “He’s in better shape than I thought he’d be in.”
One of the high school athletes of the week named by coaches this week is freshman Brent Snyder, who made a smashing debut by placing third out of 242 runners in the junior varsity race with a time of 17:35.95.
“That’s a lot faster than I thought he’d be,” Sanders said. “I thought he’d be around 18:10 on that course, so it was a big surprise.”
The other athlete of the week is freshman Will Lillard, who placed 83rd in the JV race with a time of 20:18.43.
“He’ll be right in the thick of the top seven runners on the team,” Sanders said, based on Lillard’s performance in Billings.
Placing 108th in the JV race was freshman Kyle Wolvington, who ran a time of 20:51.41.
“He needs to go out faster,” Sanders said. “He’s got more in the tank.”
Close behind Wolvington was junior Joey Bassett, who placed 110th with a time of 20:52.02, nearly a minute faster than last year. Freshman Ben Cornia placed 136th in the JV race at 21:18.63, junior Dillon Schneider 150th at 21:43.03, a minute and a half faster than a year ago, and sophomore Kyle Burton 152nd at 21:44.10.
Senior Dylan Ohman ran 25:24.42, junior Chance Wilson 25:35.72.
In the girls division, junior Jaclyn Caldwell placed 31st in the varsity race with a time of 20:19.28.
“That’s an improvement from last year, but I expect her to be much faster by the end of the season,” Sanders said. “That’s a decent start for her.”
Caldwell ran 22:11.9 a year ago.
Strong in her high school debut was junior Jamie Kite, who placed 105th in the junior varsity race out of 203 runners with a time of 25:20.82.
“For her first race I was pleased with her run,” Sanders said.
Sophomore Jazmyn See placed 128th in JV, covering the course in 26:03.89, 42 seconds faster than a year ago, and Afton George ran 26:06.24 to place 130th in the JV race, 2½ minutes faster than a year ago.
Freshman Bailey Mitchell ran 30:23.93, sophomore Mylee McArthur 30:48.42.
Middle school runners
The Lovell Middle School squad competed at the Rocky Mountain Middle School Invitational last Thursday in Cowley, and although he had not received results as of Monday afternoon, Sanders did say that seventh-grader James Caldwell did place second to earn middle school athlete of the week honors along with sixth-grader Zeke Newman, who placed fourth.
“Both of them ran well,” Sanders said. “I knew James would run strong, but Zeke was a little bit of a surprise.”
The Bulldogs and Mustangs will travel to Sheridan Saturday to compete in the Michelle Ludwig Invitational. Running begins with the middle school girls race at 10 a.m. followed by the middle school boys at 10:30, varsity girls at 11 a.m., varsity boys at 11:30, junior varsity girls at noon and JV boys at 12:30.
By David Peck