The Lovell Lady Bulldogs dominated the field at the 2A West Regional cross country meet Friday at Foster Gulch, but the win came with some heartache.
Junior Karlee Burton was running in first place when she hit the lip of a bridge on the course with about 800 meters to go and fell, twisting her ankle. She couldn’t finish the race and is day to day heading into the state meet this Saturday.
Even without their top runner, the Lovell girls finished one through four and easily won the team title. Had Burton not gone down, Lovell would likely have had the top five placers.
“As far as State, we probably won’t know (about Burton) until the day before, so that’s tough,” coach Caleb Sanders said. “It was hard on our girls, because they all passed her. They wanted to stop and help. She had it x-rayed Friday and there’s no break. It’s a decision (for State) between her, her parents and myself. That’s what it boils down to.
“We’re doing everything we can. It’s ice, elevation and time. It takes time to heal.”
Sanders said in light of Burton’s injury, the team will take one alternate to State, noting, “That’s all we have room for.”
Sanders said the alternate will likely be freshman Brooklyn Walker, with junior Ashley Peterson being one of the designated seven runners, based on the season’s performances, though Walker finished ahead of Peterson on Friday.
“Brooklyn has earned the alternate position,” Sanders said, noting that she will run if Burton can’t.
As for Friday’s race, the Lady Bulldogs really came through, Sanders said. Lovell captured the regional title with 12 team points, based on a team’s top four runners’ order of finish, followed by Wyoming Indian with 28 points and Rocky Mountain with 53.
Senior Jessica Caldwell won the regional title with a time of 22:25. Close behind was sophomore Lauren Mitchell, who crossed the finish line in second place at 22:27. Two freshmen were next. Raeghan Wacker placed third at 22:36, and Maddisun Steed was fourth, coming in at 22:47.
Sophomore Patti Sanders also earned all-conference honors (top 10) by placing seventh with a time of 23:14. Just missing an all-conference finish were freshman Brooklyn Walker, 11th with a time of 24:08, and junior Ashley Peterson, 12th at 24:35.
“I can’t think of any girl who didn’t show improvement,” Sanders said. “We haven’t had Lauren, Raeghan or Maddisun in the 22s, and Jessica’s time was a PR for the season, her best 5K time.
“We couldn’t ask for a better performance from our girls. That was our first regional championship since 2010. Everyone performed the best they had all season. They’re excited to be regional champs, and I’m thrilled to be regional champs.”
Junior Temperance Mickelson finished 16th with a time of 25:12, senior Taylor Woodford 20th at 27:06, sophomore Sariah Hendershot 22nd at 28:29 and sophomore Adaline Dickson 23rd at 29:18. Senior Jenci Jasso was unable to finish the race after suffering an injury, Sanders said.
Now it’s off to the state cross country meet at the Sheridan Veterans Administration Hospital Saturday, where Sanders said Pine Bluffs/Burns will be the team to beat.
“They have won seven (state titles) in a row,” Sander said of the combined program that draw from a combined school enrollment of 300 students. “They’re deep, they’re fast, they’re good. They’re favored to win it.”
Also strong out of the east will be Moorcroft, Sanders said.
“Our goal is to be in the top three,” he added. “We’re riding high, but we don’t want a post-regional lull. We don’t want just going to State to be the main event.”
The Lovell boys team tied for second place in points with Rocky Mountain Friday, each team earning 38, but the Grizzlies received second place because their fifth-best runner finished ahead of Lovell’s fifth runner.
Wyoming Indian won the regional with 20 points, placing six runners in the top 10.
For the Bulldogs, sophomore James Caldwell joined his sister Jessica as a regional champion, winning the race with a time of 17:52. Also earning all-conference honors was senior Brent Snyder, who placed sixth with a time of 18:36.
“James feels the race out and settles into a pace he can maintain,” Sanders said. “He clearly showed he’s the best runner in the conference. He ran comfortably the whole way.
“It will be interesting to see what he can do when he’s challenged the whole way, which he will be at State. There are some good runners on the other side who will challenge him. He felt good after the race. He ran with ease.”
Sanders also had praise for Snyder.
“I thought Brent ran well,” he said. “He’s all-conference. I’m happy to see that run out of Brent.”
Senior Ben Cornia placed 12th at 19:39, just 25 seconds out of the top 10, and Sanders said he ran well.
Junior Brenden Lundberg finished 20th with a time of 21:13, and junior Hunter Steenbakkers was 22nd at 21:36. Freshman Cardon Mickelson couldn’t compete Friday but should be available at State, Sanders said.
Lovell was the host school for the regional meet, and Sanders said he would like to thank those who put the meet together.
“I thought it was a real good meet,” he said. “I appreciate Joe (Koritnik) for helping organize the meet. We got a lot of compliments on the course. I also thought it was a great turnout from the fans. It was fantastic. A lot of people came out to support the runners. To me it was a perfectly run conference meet.”
State in Sheridan
The order of events Saturday at the VA Hospital grounds in Sheridan is as follows:
10:30 a.m. – 3A boys
11 a.m. – 2A boys
11:30 a.m. – 4A boys
noon – 3A girls
12:30 p.m. – 2A girls
1:15 p.m. – 4A girls
By David Peck