The Lovell Bulldogs tackled the hilly course at the Class 3A Regional Cross Country Meet in Lander Friday, and although times for all runners were slow due to the difficulty of the course, the Lovell team generally struggled even more than expected on the day, coach Caleb Sanders said.
“We definitely were outclassed as a team,” Sanders said. “One of the problems we face is that we don’t have the pushing that other teams have – someone trying to push for a spot (on the team going to State). Star Valley, for instance, had no spots decided, so the kids were pushing and it showed.
“Other teams run with more at stake, more on the line, either to keep their spot or to take someone else’s spot.”
In Class 3A, each team can enter seven runners at the state meet, and five of the seven can score team points. But Lovell has only six girls on the team and eight boys, so 13 of the 14 runners already have a state berth in hand.
Lovell had one all-conference runner Friday. Senior Jaclyn Caldwell placed ninth in the girls race with a time of 22:07.47 to earn all-conference (top 10) honors.
“Jackie started well, but her finish wasn’t where it could have been,” Sanders said. “She led Erin Woolley (of Cody, seventh) for most of the race, but she didn’t go with the surge at the end. She just finished.
“That’s odd for her to not have a surge of her own. She’s really going to have to fight for an all-state position this week.”
Caldwell placed 10th at State a year ago.
The course at the Lander Country Club is difficult, Sanders said, with a massive hill about halfway through the race and a smaller hill after that. The big hill is so steep, he said, that runners have to actually hold back coming off the slope.
Sophomore Jessica Caldwell placed 30th in Lander with a time of 24:20.21, senior Afton George 57th at 27:28.10, junior Savannah Jolley 69th at 29:35.71 and senior Caitlyn Lundberg 70th at 29:51.92. Freshman Megan Cornia also ran, but her time was not listed on official results posted on Runnercard.com.
“Jessica ran good for most of the race, but her finish wasn’t as strong, too,” Sanders said. “The only positive about this is that, if you have a bad race at Regionals, you can have a better one at State. I hope it’s a motivator.”
Coming close to all-conference status was senior Jacob Newman in the boys race, placing 11th with a time of 18:36.71.
“Jacob was in position (to be all-conference),” Sanders said. “He ran 11th pretty much the whole way, but again, there was no surge. He has 800 speed and didn’t do it (surge).
“He still has a chance to be all-state. The other Regional isn’t as competitive as ours.”
Sophomore Brent Snyder finished 31st with a time of 19:57.54, sophomore Ben Cornia 70th at 22:12.56, freshman Hunter Steenbakkers 75th at 22:35.31, sophomore Kyle Wolvington 88th at 23:40.31, freshman Brenden Lundberg 92nd at 24:19.06, junior Kyle Burton 27:38.19 and freshman JR Dickson 30:05.78.
“Hunter and Ben stepped up,” Sanders said. “They were the two on the boys team who ran a great race.
“We have a good group of kids, and they like cross country, but we’re not very hungry.”
State meet Saturday
The Wyoming State Cross Country Meet will be held this Saturday at the State Veterans Administration Hospital grounds in Sheridan.
“The regional meet should be a motivator for us,” Sanders said of the team’s preparation and mindset. “We’ll rest more than ever this week, just do some real light runs. I want to make sure they’re fresh and ready.
“I’m optimistic. Maybe we can put together a good week and a good meet.”
The Lovell boys will run at 11:30 a.m. and the Lovell girls at 1:15 p.m.
By David Peck